All leaders have one thing in common; the vast majority of what they do is based in conversation. Successful leaders have great conversations everyday and have learnt how to become masters of conversation. Conversation is often overlooked, and yet it is a hugely powerful tool in leadership. It is the one element of leadership that you have total control over.

The task of a leader is to inspire others to achieve great results. It sounds simple, but as I know from experience, leaders today are operating in an incredibly demanding environment. The difference between competent communication and inspiring communication can be the difference between poor performance and outstanding results. My experience as a coach has helped me to identify the key elements in creating powerful and successful conversations for leaders.

The key to developing these conversations is by distinguishing the different conversations that take place and the influence these conversations have.

“Since leadership manifests itself in conversation, you can dramatically and immediately improve your effectiveness by changing the kind and frequency of conversation you have” – Kim Krisco (2002)

Kim Krisco identified time as a useful distinction of conversation in his book, Leadership & The Art of Conversation.


   PAST                     PRESENT                   FUTURE

Shift the conversation into the future

Past conversations are usually assessments, interpretations, deductions and opinions usually based on facts. These conversations are focused on “the way we have always done it,” and assumptions that “things can’t change”. These past conversations are background conversations and take up a huge 80% of all workplace conversations!

Conversations like, “Well, yes but our clients wouldn’t want that, as X mentioned they weren’t ready for that”, or, “X is always difficult to manage.” As a leader it is important that you can identify these conversations and not get drawn into them. Businesses whose conversations are focused in the past will maintain the status quo and eventually become stuck. “This is the way it is, so this is the way we do it.” You can change these conversations to be more fruitful and creative just by becoming aware of them and listening carefully to them. What are people assuming? What are the facts? What is blocking people from moving forward?

Begin with identifying the facts and acknowledging them, as well as challenging them. “I hear what you are saying, but is that always the case?” People want most of all to be heard; to have others listen to them – really listen – and understand their needs and concerns. If you want to attract and keep good employees, and if you want to retain good customers, stop the talk and start listening and having a conversation. It will, I promise, change your world.

The next challenge for you as a leader is to move the conversation from the past into the future. It is imperative to explore the future as this is where you will be spending most of your time! To move the past conversations into the future start your conversations with declarations such as: –

  • “What if…”
  • “I think it is possible to…”
  • “We are capable…”
  • “I believe…”

These future conversations are where the real magic begins. Once you have the possibilities, you can put the actions in place to grow your business successfully!


Key points

Talking is a habit; so much so that we can often forget that we have the ability to create and host powerful productive, energising and transformative conversations. As a leader you are responsible for the quality of the conversation in your workplace and the creator of that culture. Creating conversational spaces is your most influential tool in your tool kit.

  • Listen to the conversations that are taking place – how are they impacting on your business?
  • Identify the type of conversations that are happening
  • Listen to what is being said, value it, and move the conversation into the realms of possibility

What change can you make today in your conversations that have a positive influence on others and your success as leader?

Reference: Krisco, K.H (2002) Leadership and the Art of Conversation: Conversation as a Management Tool Mumbai: Jaico Books

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