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Nitish Mukherjee

The author is a Board Member, Advisor, Coach & Mentor. The content of this article is his personal opinion

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BW Businessworld

Dark Roast Double Shot: The Conversation Cocktail and Its Heady Consequences

Understanding the dynamics of conversations and their influence on an individual’s development and success is your key to growth.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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Am I just living here day to day, or am I moving ahead? If I continue to do what I do, where does it lead to? What have I learnt over the past year that is new? Is my boss leading me to new knowledge or skills? What does the company really think about the value that I bring to work? Should I continue to work here?

If you have any of these questions, or those similar to these in your mind, it is time to focus on two things. The conversations that you have been having and the actions that have followed. That is all that matters.

Understanding the dynamics of conversations and their influence on an individual’s development and success is your key to growth. Knowing what conversations should be and how they should be conducted can be very empowering. They can help you set the agenda. Initiate conversations where there were none. Manage the flow to keep it positive and productive. With clarity and perseverance even in the most difficult circumstances you can turn the tide. Because conversations are always a two-way process. Most people in leadership positions lead a dual existence of a boss and a subordinate rolled into one individual. You can use your role as a boss or a subordinate to initiate change, but for that you must understand the anatomy of conversations.

The conversations that you have been having with your boss, influencers within the company, your peers and your subordinates is the bedrock of the culture that you breathe every day. If it feeds your energy, your passion, your ambition, your will to excel and shows you the way to succeed, then you are on a diet for growth that will help actualise your dreams and desires. If it breeds anxiety, creates stress, makes you feel smaller, constantly doubt your abilities and possibly doesn’t show you a way out, you are breathing toxic fumes that are slowly diminishing and extinguishing your readiness for growth and your ability to live up to your full potential.

The conversations that you have, could be broadly classified into three buckets. The first bucket is Business Metrics. The immediate goals or targets that deem you “successful” in your role. Metrics such as market share, revenue, profit, cost et al. This is very important. Without this, companies cannot survive and you may become rudderless. Constant focus is required to ensure that you are reaching your milestones in time. It is the lighthouse for early warning signals. However, if it takes more than 10 per cent of your time it delivers very little value. Because constantly beating the figures can yield very little. Worse if it is a stick to beat the team with. It is counter-productive. However, with increasing quarter over quarter pressures, this has become the mainstay of conversations in many companies and takes the lion’s share of thought and action.

The second bucket is where you talk about the short-term plans that support these business outcomes. This is where the real engagement begins. It starts with the reasons behind the numbers and what needs to be done better. What challenges must be overcome and how best to execute those plans. It must also clearly define each person’s role and the road ahead. But it’s not just about the business, it has to be equally about you. Is it an inclusive conversation or are you only talked at? Are your views considered respectfully? Does the leader arrive at a clear way ahead? Do they balance your personal needs with expectations at the workplace? Resolve conflicts with speed or empower you to do so? Provide adequate support to help the team and you to achieve your targets? Align themselves to your personal expectations of growth? Or do they relentlessly push, clearly enumerating the dire consequences of failing? And reminding you that it is your job to make them succeed and that their failure is not an option.

Think carefully, because deep within these conversations lies the catalyst that will either make you grow or whittle you down every day. Ideally, this bucket should take 90 per cent of the time.

The third bucket in conversations is the most powerful one. Because it is the firmament of sustainability. It predicates the trajectory of your growth and the distance that you can cover. But you can well ask that if we have already used up 100 per cent of our time in the first two buckets where is the time for this?

Your long-term growth doesn’t depend on your functional competencies alone. It is determined as much by who you are as a professional and a person. Your values, your behavioural traits and indeed the consciousness that guides you. Through a process of osmosis your professional environment shapes all this. Do your boss and the company follow ethical means and practices? Truly believe in and cherish inclusion and diversity? Would they compromise on ethics and integrity for results and success? Are they concerned about individual growth? Or do they chase targets to the exclusion of everything else to ensure their bonuses?

Very often it is said that many of our unconscious biases are shaped in our most formative years as a function of the mores of society and parenting that nurtured us. The same is true of our professional environment and its effect on us. So, never underestimate the effect that it can have on you. It can drive you to the pinnacle of your potential or stop a great journey in its tracks.

The paradox of the third bucket is that you do not need to allocate specific time for it, but it has to be an inalienable part of your stream of consciousness. This often-silent conversation is your constant companion. It can be your most powerful ally or potent foe. But it must be under conscious and constant scrutiny. And judged not by the rhetoric but by individual and collective action that is taken in the conduct of everyday business.

Action is the only litmus. Do your boss and the company follow through on their promises and commitments to you? Do they spend time to coach and mentor you to meet your aspirations? Do they communicate clearly why they want you to do what they want you to do?  

 Once you review the conversations that you are having and those that you aren’t, the answers will be evident to you. If the mix of the conversations leave you energised and optimistic, you are in a great place. If it leaves you wondering, seek and push for clarity. If it leaves you anguished, it’s time to pack your bags.

Companies that have withstood the test of time understand the power of conversations to fuel sustainable growth.

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Dark Roast Double Shot magazine issue 7 Oct 2020