conversation bubblesVannoy and Ross

February 8, 2011

It happens too often: There’s precious time in each day to get things done, and invariably a portion of the clock is used discussing pointless and non-value-add matters. Leaving people to wonder at that end of the meeting: “Did we get anything done?”

There’s a name for pointless conversations. They’re called “nonversations.”

Nonversations plague companies and leaders who suffer “the slows.” By definition, a nonversation is “a conversation that seems meaningless or without logic”[i].

“I want conversations to count for something,” a friend says. “The better we get at being real the more effective we are at having conversations that have purpose.”

Authentic leaders know how to steer clear of nonversations. The challenge becomes: How do you help your team derive even more value from the conversations they have each day? The answer: Ask greater questions.

Consider the question Patrick, a talented CEO in Portland, loves to ask his team: “What are we pretending we don’t know?”

For example, “We may think our product is the best on the market, but we just lost on four of our last five sales calls. What are we pretending?”

Or, “That guy down the hall has been here for a year. He’s talented, but no one likes to work with him. As supervisors, what are we pretending?”

Or, “We may think we can cut costs to get to sustained profitability. What are we pretending?”

This week, what questions will you ask to help others move from nonversations to more value-add conversations? Please share your thoughts in the reply box below.

[i] “Top 10 User-Submitted Words, Vol. 5.”  Merriam Webster, accessed February 7, 2011, www.merriam-webster.com.

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