Whilst the great George Orwell in this infamous line (All Animals are created equal bus some animals are more equal than others.) was making reference to political irony, and also an acknowledgement of the futility of absolutes, there is some irony in how we view the conversations in our workplaces.

There are conversations…and then there are conversations.


I tend to label conversations in three ways:

Personal Conversations – the chit-chat and banter that focuses on non-work-related topics.

Business Conversations – one- or two-way conversations that do not progress thinking or creativity but focus on sharing information or giving instruction.

Professional Conversations – deliberate and powerful conversations designed to challenge thinking, create shifts, discover truth, engage and motivate (amongst other great things).

These are all equal in that they can all claim to be conversations, but in terms of their impact from a leadership perspective, each of them is more equal than the one before.

Personal conversations are great for building rapport, for developing trust over time, and for providing essential ‘brain breaks’, when future focused and positive in nature.  These are important conversations to have, though are more intangible in their impact.

Business conversations are about instruction, information sharing and seeking to understand, and are a necessary part of everyday work. They make up a majority of work-related conversations in most organisations.  They are more equal than personal conversations in terms of tangible business impact.

Professional conversations are intentional, coaching style conversations, performed by skilled individuals, which facilitate quality thinking and accountability.  They are the most equal of business conversations in terms of useful impact.

Professional conversations are a skill you can learn, and require a level of mastery in:

  • Understanding Human Motivation, including an understanding of the science of insight
  • Coaching skills and powerful questioning techniques
  • Capacity for mindful attention and tapping into intuition and non-verbals

Here is an idea you can implement immediately (that means today) to have more Professional Conversations with your team.

We are all wired differently, and so cannot ever assume what someone else is thinking or how they process information.  Yet we do this all the time, preferring to see the end result from own needs and perspective.  Whilst this may be effective on the surface, in terms of motivation and accountability from the others involved, it falls short.

Shift your focus to letting others drive the direction and content of the conversation.  Gently nudge and challenge their thinking, always with an open mind.

You should be in control of the structure of the conversation, but if you are seeking input and quality thinking from others, then ask them what kind of conversation is needed.

For example…

”We have to deliver this project by COB Friday, and we have 1 hour now to get our heads around it.  What will be the best use of this time for you? (they answer, and it’s important that they go first)…Great, what I need is to be really clear on what the final document will look like. (Don’t be afraid to state what you need).  Let’s figure out how to best spend this hour so we both get what we need.”

Find three opportunities today to do this.  Start to REWIRE the way you enter business conversations and meetings and look to see if the level of engagement and insight in the conversations starts to improve over time.