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Creating a culture where people have conversations

Posted by  chandni —November 7, 2008
Filed in Anecdotes, Communication

Many (most?) of our conversations in the workplace are transactional: in fact they are not conversations at all. In the October issue of Anecdotally, we shared a technique to encourage people to have conversations.

Here’s a nice success story about how a culture was created where people have conversations.

“The London office was horrible”, a senior manager told us, “with constant backbiting and a lot of bad blood”. The change started with Charlotte Beers, the then CEO of OgilvyOne, who invited all the business leaders to a two-day off-site meeting. Breaking with norms, she began the conversation by asking direct questions: “How do we feel about one another? Why can’t we work together? Do we recognise what that is doing to our clients?” That meeting was the turning point.

Initially, the discussions were very difficult. “We simply did not know how to openly talk to each other”, the same senior manager told us. “We were so used to being defensive and polite. It took two years and eight meetings – and some changes in the cast of characters – before we learnt to deal with emotions and feelings, to be authentic. Its only through that process that we learnt the power of friendship”.

Gratton L., and Ghoshal S., (2002) “Improving the Quality of Conversations”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 209-223.

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