How many conversations are you in, really?

Picture this all-too common scenario between a supervisor and a staffer:

Supervisor: I asked you to see me today because I want to talk about your missed deadlines and the impact on our project, which you know is pivotal for the company goal this year.

Staffer: I know I haven’t made all the due dates, but I have so many projects assigned, and the ones I have completed on time were done really well, and made a real difference to those project teams.

Supervisor: Yes, but the project timeline for our most important initiative cannot be missed by this team.

Staffer: There is a lot of fat in the schedule and I don’t think we will have any trouble making the project deadline with a good product. After all, the work I’ve done on the other three projects won awards, and got mentioned in the company e-news as an outstanding example of work that delivers on the brand promise. Others in the company really appreciate the work I’m delivering.

Supervisor:   My point is that deadlines have to be met. If I don’t know when I will get work from the team, I will fail to meet the expectations I set with upper management, and I don’t care to be made to look bad by my own team.

Okay, folks, what is happening here? Clearly, these two are not connecting (sound familiar?).

You see, if you asked them, they’d both tell you they were in a conversation with the other. But they aren’t.

In actuality, they are in two distinct conversations. The supervisor is trying, unsuccessfully, to request the staffer’s support so he and the team don’t lose management’s confidence. The staffer, on the other hand, is another conversation entirely — one that could be titled “I don’t feel appreciated by you.”

Both conversations have validity most likely. But unfortunately, since these two well trained professionals haven’t distinguished that they are conducting two simultaneous conversations, it is likely neither will get their need met. And sadly, if they continue on this path, there may well be upset, unspoken resentment and growing doubt about their commitment to each other.

This week, try this on: eavesdrop on conversations around you, especially ones in which the parties seem to be frustrated with each other. See if you can “name” the conversations each party is having. Are they in the same conversation or different ones? Chances are good, it’s the latter.

In our next Onward episode, we’ll look at this same conversation to identify the communication choices being made by these two speakers, and what they could change in their own speaking to alter the reality, and get themselves into a single conversation toward a shared outcome. (Hint: they have equal power to lead the conversation to be effective.)

Till next time, keep moving onward.

If you’re ready to have conversations to cause intended outcomes, contact us.