Friday, September 25th, 2020

Pivotal Conversations for Improved Business Results

Pivotal Conversation 2In April, a blog radio program called Leadership Matters invited me to the to discuss a breakthrough approach to “pivotal conversations,” something our clients have used to radically improve their business results.  The interview was recorded and can be accessed at no cost via the links below …

Pivotal conversations are discussions where important outcomes are at stake. How it goes can have a positive or negative impact on the organization or on business results. They are also conversations where the parties involved have differing perspectives and priorities, and where “agreeing to disagree” is not an option.

Key mindsets and skills needed for effective Pivotal Conversations

In the first audio clip below, you’ll hear about the four kinds of agility needed for highly effective pivotal conversations.  You’ll learn the central role your “power style” plays in shaping these conversations and their outcomes.  You’ll hear a real-life example of how one manager became much more effective by developing a much more balanced power style.  I also tell you how you can gain insight into your own power style and learn how to adjust it for increased effectiveness:


Transforming business results through Pivotal Conversations

In the next audio clip below, you’ll hear a client story that shows how a group of new product development managers learned new ways to approach pivotal conversations. When they applied what they learned, they significantly reduced time to market and had dramatic results in terms of cost savings and increased margin dollars.  You’ll hear the story of one participant who learned how to deal with her “worst nightmare” in a way that transformed a near disaster into a business partnership that paid off big-time for her company.


Introduction to Pivotal Conversations

The following audio clip comes from the beginning of the interview, but it is placed here because it is something of a warm-up to the other clips that does not need to be heard first:


The Four Types of Agility needed in Pivotal Conversations

The research conducted for our book, Leadership Agility, showed that there are four types of agility that managers need to accomplish successful leadership initiatives, regardless of their scale.  These types of agility are needed not only when leading teams and leading organizational change, but also in pivotal conversations.  Here’s how they apply to these high-stakes conversations:

  • Context-setting agility. This is how you frame the conversation: Being clear about what you’re hoping to accomplish, and setting the tone.  For example, if you want it to be a collaborative conversation rather than an argument about who’s going to prevail, how do you signal that in a genuine way?
  • Stakeholder agility. This hinges partly on your ability to understand other’s views and priorities when they differ from your own.  Can you really put yourself in their place?  It also hinges on your ability to resolve differences with others.  This is huge in pivotal conversations.  It gets into something I call “power style.”  (See the first clip above).
  • Creative agility. Pivotal conversations usually require problem-solving.  And, given the pace of change and degree of complexity we’re dealing with today, these problems are often fairly complex and have a certain degree of novelty baked into them.  To solve these kinds of problems, you need to think creatively.  More than that, you need to take the lead in having conversations where you and the other person can think creatively together.
  • Self-leadership agility. This is partly about self-awareness:  First, how clear are you about your own point of view and your own emotional reactions?  Second, are you clear about what behaviors you want to improve so that your pivotal conversations get better and better?  For example, do you need to become a more effective listener?  Do you need to be more assertive?  Self-leadership agility is also about trying out new mindsets and behaviors, and reflecting on and learning from these experiences.


Image41Bill Joiner is co-author of the award-winning book, Leadership Agility.  He is President and a Principal Consultant at ChangeWise, a long-established firm with international reach that specializes in leadership consulting, coaching and training; team development; and organizational change consulting.

Follow Bill Joiner on Twitter – @leaderagility

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