Although leaders spend as much as 80% of their time in conversation, many underestimate the power of good quality conversation in getting things done and improving performance…and also how very ordinary we are at it.

Following on from my last blog, here are five more myths about business conversations that need to be busted!

Myth 6: Leadership is about strategy and processes

Leading is a social activity. It’s about people first and the effectiveness of your conversations, supported by great strategy and useful process.

Myth 7: Culture change is a project management process

In a similar vein to the previous myth, culture change is so much more than a project management process. Leaders are far too reliant on structures, strategy and processes to support organisational change. To change culture you need to change the collective organisational brain of your people. See the next myth on how to do that!

Myth 8: I can’t change people

Neuroplasticity is one of the most significant discoveries of our time. Through FMRI technology, neuroscientists have discovered the brain’s plastic ability to reorganise or ‘rewire’ itself in response to changes in behaviour, thinking, environment, emotions and bodily injury. This process works through attention – the more attention you place on the brains wiring, the stronger it gets. Where we place our attention influences how our brain engages in this reorganisation and hence how we grow and change over time. When this attention is deliberate, it is referred to as self-directed neuroplasticity.

When, through powerful and deliberate conversation, you influence the direction of another person’s attention, you are, in fact, influencing how their brain is changing. Learning powerful conversation skill is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to truly influence others.

Myth 9: Failure is not an option

We learn through failure. A child does not simply stand up and start walking. They stand and fall. Stand and fall again, trying different techniques and slowing getting used to a new way of getting around. For some reason, when we grow up, we seem to lose that innate understanding that learning is a process that relies on failure (which is the recognition and appreciation of what NOT to do). In organisations, we need to develop a healthier relationship with failure in the form of an experimental mindset. Conversations need to change from a focus on achievement (which risks failure) to a focus on running experiments and then debriefing and learning from them, and bringing that new learning into the next conversation.

Myth 10: I know the answer

There are more possible ways to connect the brain’s neurons than there are atoms in the universe (John Ratey). Every one of us is different, in fact, much more different that we ever imagined, and this means that we can never truly know or understand what another human being needs or wants. Never presume you can know the answer, until you get curious and find out much more about what another person wants or needs. Check out my blog on 50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism!