How to Elevate Yourself, Your Conversations, and Your Future

How to Elevate Yourself, Your Conversations, and Your Future

In this preview from The Future of the Workplace, Aviv Shahar shares why conversation is the core mechanism to enable and facilitate change, transformation, and the evolution of an organization as well as ourselves.

Aviv Shahar: Founder, Aviv Consulting. Author of Create New Futures: How Leaders Produce Breakthroughs and Transform the World Through Conversation.

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What do people really lack and long for at work?

Aviv: I believe there are two aspects to this. There are the interior and the exterior dimensions to consider. Whether people know it or not, they long for self-insight and for getting themselves back.

When you get yourself back, that’s a big part of perhaps what you’re looking for. Because inside it, you get to appreciate the human condition and your own conditioning too.

And these insights lead to finding your strength and appreciating that inside your strength, there also may be a weakness.

And also inside your weakness, there may be a latent strength. As you know, there are many dyslexic people who are brilliant and found ways to lead and transform to bring tremendous innovation into a variety of spaces. It’s just one example of the transformative power of self-insight and how understanding your superpower, including appreciating how inside your weakness there may be a latent strength, can be a game-changer. These are mission-critical insights if you are to manifest your gifts and talent to bring forward your greatest contribution.

I think also that people long for a variety of other properties or qualities or energies if you like. We all need and seek connectedness. We all seek and/or need respect, dignity, and opportunity. Human beings need to be seen and recognized. We hope to be given the opportunity to influence and shape our destiny.

All those are naturally arising longings in human beings.

When core human needs are met at work, they unleash incredible power, creativity, and resourcefulness.

This naturally would include the opportunity to contribute to a meaningful purpose. One that affords us the feeling we are serving and are part of something even bigger than ourselves.

Cocreating your own future and contributing to a greater cause and a novel purpose are truly the biggest creativity and innovation release factors. The sense that we are serving a purpose and a mission we can identify with and that we can believe in. And that through that mission, purpose, and contribution, we get to express our talent and capabilities. That I believe is what people long for at work.

Bill: Your response spoke to me in several ways. The whole idea of self-insight and doing the work I am doing is based on operating from a level of intention and having a more meaningful impact. It really allows you to harvest who you are and the creative part of you. I think the other fascinating thing for me has been how that connects you to everything where ideas and people come from somewhere else. The right people show up. The right ideas show up. You become a vortex or focal point for that conversation and those ideas to unfold.

You’ve written the book Create New Futures: How Leaders Produce Breakthroughs and Transform the World Through Conversation. What prompted you to write the book?

It’s probably a combination of three impulses. The first is a natural desire and need to share and transfer to others the work that I do and what enables me to produce the outcomes I help leaders and teams create. That sense of wanting to give back and offer the experience of my development journey. That’s the first impulse.

The second is the observation that a group of smart people when they come around the table, will often produce collective stupidity instead of collective wisdom. I attempted in the book to help teams transcend the collective stupidity syndrome to instead produce collective wisdom through the techniques, processes, insights, and questions I describe. There is something disconcerting, depressing, and upsetting when brilliant people can only produce suboptimal outcomes instead of the multiplication of their natural brilliance. Addressing that need is the second impulse.

The third is the game-changing realization insight that conversation is the currency of work. It’s also the currency of leadership. We lead and transform our environments and organizations through conversation.

Conversation is the core mechanism to enable and facilitate change, transformation, and the evolution of an organization on the path to enabling and creating a whole new future.

Bill: In your book, you say...

“Conversations are game-changers. Through conversations, we transform ourselves, those around us, and our environments. Ultimately conversations allow us to shape possibilities, choose the best future imaginable, and make it a reality.”

Is there a story you can share that brought you to that understanding?

Aviv: First, let me say it is curious and validating that of everything in the book, you have chosen this one quote because if you said “What is the one takeaway I hope people will take from Creating New Futures,” then it would be exactly that.

Conversations are that kind of a game changer, and through conversation, we can transform ourselves and the world around us.

The story or perhaps where this begins for me, the first defining moment was during the 1973 war in Israel. I was a 14-year-old in the Kibbutz where I was growing up. At the time, my father was serving as the Secretary General of the Kibbutz. Every evening he convened gatherings to facilitate conversations to help people process the shock, grief, anxiety, and fear because for a few days the survival of Israel was hanging in the balance. What I observed was that through dialogue, you could convert despair into hope, fear into encouragement and confidence, and pain could be transformed into bonded conviction in a better future.

I recognized, even if not fully consciously but over time, that this was the function and the job of a leader: to unleash possibilities. To help people discover how they can bring forward their best contributions. I realized that you did those things as a leader through conversation and through the facilitation of transformative inquiry. Little did I know back then that this would be defining and setting in motion the direction and work I will be doing many years later. Today that’s what I am doing with leadership teams.

People tell me that when they’re with me in the room, they’re able to listen to each other differently. Through those dialogues, they ask each other new questions, and these conversations enable and help them see challenges through new lenses to unleash innovative ideas. As a result, they are able to come together in days to reach agreements and decisions that otherwise would take three or six months or more likely never be reached.

As part of that process, I help teams identify the difference between displaced and efficacious conversations, which is something I explain and go into in Create New Futures. The point is to create effective and efficacious conversations, conversations that mobilize movement and action. Displaced conversations do not address a need. As a result, they are often captured by complaints and blame. I offer that complaint is a misdirected energy of an unaddressed and unmet need. Blame is the externalization and projection of the complaint. These are discussions that are two steps removed from the point of efficacy, where we meet a need in a transformative and innovative way.

Efficacious conversation is one that leads to requests and proposals and ultimately to agreements on how to address the need. They enable us to unleash positive movement and action. That’s the story I will offer on the defining genesis of conversation as the game-changer that facilitates transformation.

Note: This is a preview of the full interview. The complete interview was selected by Apress for publication and continues in The Future of the Workplace.