Why brave conversations matter

The hidden cost of silence in leadership teams

How much of your average day do you spend in conversation? In meetings? Whether it’s virtual or in-person, so many of our meetings echo with conversations that barely scratch the surface of real, genuine dialogue. When this happens within leadership teams, it’s not just a minor setback; it can get in the way of building trust, coming up with creative ideas, or making decisions based on diverse thought.

During the first half of my career, I worked in various leadership roles within organisations. At times, I remember sitting in meetings which I didn’t experience as engaging or valuable. There was a lot of ‘talking over’ and I sensed that some colleagues, me included, chose the easy route of nodding and agreeing rather than speaking up and saying what they really thought. When we walked out of the room, the separate conversations would often start. “I don’t know why that decision was made.” “Did you notice x didn’t say a word?” “I don’t know what the point was in me being there – I didn’t get a chance to speak.”  I sometimes wonder, how different things may have turned out if the quieter amongst us had chosen the braver route of speaking up or disagreeing.

Awareness is easy in hindsight, but unless we actively support leadership teams to develop their conversational wisdom through practise, the silent voices may not be heard. Habits, assumptions, and behavioural norms will continue, and the potential strength from the collective voice will remain untapped. During complex times, this is a wasted opportunity.

Here at The Conversation Space, we intentionally create a learning environment that enables team members to creatively explore the dynamics and habits that occupy their meetings. We start by sensitively bringing greater awareness, and then use experiential exercises to being to move beyond everyday conversations to a ‘brave conversational space’.

In particular, we focus on development of the following tenets:

  1. Embracing vulnerability – those leaders who holder power (explicitly or implicitly) need to model the courage to expose their uncertainties and gaps in knowledge. This doesn’t weaken leadership; rather it invites trust and opens the door for others to contribute authentically.
  2. Cultivating a culture of honesty – as I experienced, superficial harmony can sometimes mask what people are really thinking. By inviting each person in a team meeting to actively participate, you are maximising your team potential by welcoming diverse perspectives. This is essential for robust decision making.
  3. Developing brave leadership teams – supporting leaders to not only speak but to listen deeply, to engage with empathy, and to facilitate conversations that bridge differences rather than widen gaps, is essential.

Fostering conversational environments that encourage people to speak up, and having the skills to disagree with empathy, are qualities that are integral to effective leadership in today’s workplaces. By embracing brave conversations, we not only shine a light on our challenges but also foster a shared wisdom that can truly transform our teams.

To find out how we do this, click here, or call us to have a chat.

Here’s what our clients say:

“Our team has worked together for a few years, but under new leadership we decided on a joint ambition to work more as one team, to become closer in the way we collaborate and support each other. We asked the Conversation Space to facilitate our first full team meeting to help us get to know each other more and to create a vision of the future we want to create.

The approach the conversation space brought to our meeting was perfect for what we needed – encouraging open conversation, boldness and embracing challenge. Emily and Catherine spent the time to understand the team and get under the skin of our culture and the people, they then led us through a series of different and entertaining session that enabled us to build the foundations of what we are certain will be a very strong team! Sometimes corporate “team building” is seen as paying lip service to something that needs to be done, but our time with the Conversation space felt very different – the feedback we had from the team is that everything we did was meaningful and had impact on them as individuals and us together as a team. It definitely sparked a lot of on-going conversations!”

Sarah Leech, Design & Innovation Director, Unilever

By Sara Hope
13.06.2024