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Cool Conversation Tools from Susan Bird

Conversation is the lubricant of healthy human relationships.  So, what are you doing to foster better, more authentic conversations whether at home or the office.

Susan Bird of wf360 has created a wonderful guide for improving conversation.
Smart Talk: The ABCs of Authentic Conversation.

This is the coolest thing I have seen in a long time. 

Look at this!

It's a book, but not bound like a book.  It bound more like the paint samples at the store.  Very cool.

The book follows the alphabet, with a thought and a conversation hint for each letter.

It a collection of chapters, very short chapters.

For example, here's "C is for Courage," one of my favorite words.

"If you intend to be a leader who always means what you say, there will be occasions when your conversations ruffle feathers, even even elicit harsh rebukes or rejection. But such conversation can be the beginning of transformational change.  It takes guts to ignite the flame that will make things hot, and a willingness to do so is a pre-requisite for leadership.
It's easy to engage people in predictable exchange.  It's another matter entirely when what you say may cause discomfort. Before you speak, consider the literal meaning of the word "encourage."  *Focus less on securing agreement and more on how you can help your listeners take up the challenge your words will throw down.  Together - with courage squared - you're more likely to find a mutually satisfactory resolution.  If this sounds like work.  It is.  But shared courage is what it takes to make a real difference and change the world.
*en-cour-age: to inspire with courage, spirit, confidence; to spur on.

So on top of a very cool design (I've said that three times. Whew!!!), there is real wisdom here. And wisdom at the service of conversation.

Susan is right that conversation takes work.  All things valuable take work.  There are no short cuts in this regard.  Yet, to achieve great things we often need tools that will help accomplish far more than we can ordinarily do.  Here's a tool that will pay dividends.

So, here's what you can do.

Buy a copy for each of your team.  Carve out 10-12 minutes in your next meeting, read one of the chapters, and discuss it.  If your team is not used to talking in this manner, then break them into two and threes and have them come up with one insight to share. 

Encourage them to take their copy home at try at the dinner table.  Try to make a game out of it.  What kind of game?  With each chapter, identify one thing that everyone agrees to do, some action they can take together.

For example, with courage.  Go do something courageous, like climbing a rock wall at a climbing center. Then go get ice cream and talk about the courage it took to step up on the wall.

This is not a book to read. This is a book to read together and discuss.

In this way, conversation becomes a performance art that everyone can become masters at.

And this cool (4 times) is not the only thing Susan Bird has created. She also has a conversation toolLeadingquestions_susan_bird called Leading Questions (what a clever title!).  This is a can of ... well ... questions from a wide variety of leaders that asked for the purpose of stimulating conversation.

Here are a couple examples randomly selected.

"If you could take complete responsibility for one thing in your organization, what would it be and what would you do?" Elizabeth Coppinger - former SVP, Strategic Alliances, Sony Corporation; Board Director, Lightspan.

"If you had the choice to receive either more time or more money, would you select an extra four hours a day or $4,000 a day? What would you do with it, and how would you quality of life be superior to what it is now?"
  Patricia Francy - Board Director, Priceline; Board Director, Siebert Financial.

The can is full of questions that can be use in a wide variety of settings to move people from a more superficial exchange to some really depth of conversation.

Check them out. Use them.  Improve your team's conversation, you'll find your work together improving too.  And it will be fun on top of that. How cool is that?!

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