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Organisations are networks of conversations*. When you think about it, it’s obvious isn’t it?

Yet conversations can be misconstrued  leading to different understandings and commitments. Worst still this can result in wasted time and effort, the build up of resentment and the need for remediation.

When my clients aren’t getting the results from their reports that they expect or require I ask if they’ve had a conversation with them. Often the immediate response is  “yes I’ve already told him”  or  “he just doesn’t listen” or  “that’s just the way we do things around here”.

What may be happening is that my client isn’t explicit in his conversation or there may be missing conversations. He may simply assume that his colleagues share the same standards, norms and expectations as he does.

However,  in many of the organisations where I coach and consult, the workforces are very diverse. For example, there are multiple nationalities, different senses of humour, varying attitudes to work and leisure, many working styles, different expectations of how men and women should behave, different attitudes to hierarchy and whether communication should be direct or “polite.”

I encourage my clients, especially if they are new to a leadership role or if a new employee joins their team, to schedule time  to design an alliance or effective working relationship. For example, to share explicitly with his colleagues:

* his  standards and expectations
* what will satisfy his standards
* what he cares about
* what energises and motivates him
* what his priorities are

Similarly, I encourage him to ask his reports to share explicitly:

* what are their concerns with respect to their role/project/product/team
* what are their ambitions
* how are they best managed e.g. left to get on with it or frequent interactions
* what motivates them
* where do they need help

If you don’t simply assume, if you really listen and pay attention to your reports and accept that it may take some trial and error to work out the best way to work together you are much more likely to achieve success and not complain “but I’ve already told him……”

You might also find it constructive to read Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and The ‘C’ word

*  An insight shared by my teacher Julio Olalla

If you’d like to have a conversation with me about how you might improve your working relationships and create more commitment to achieve your project goals leave a reply below, call me on London +44 (0) 20 7226 3611 or

Photo source: By Selena Wilke (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons