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Turning words into action

Ever sat in a meeting where the 'outcomes' were to schedule a lot of other meetings?  It is good to talk but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and sometimes you need to get loud to cut through the chatter.  If you acknowledge that you can't - and wouldn't want to - cut out the talk entirely, the million dollar question has to be how do you make one lead to the other; how do you turn words into action?

Someone who has thought about this a lot is James Flaherty, who sets out the "Speech Act Theory" in his book 'Coaching – Evoking Excellence in Others'.  The Theory has it that there are three kinds of useful conversation and being able to judge what type of conversation to deploy at any given time, and how to move between the different types of conversation, can help you get ahead.

The first is conversation for relationship which requires actually listening to each other and actively seeking to identify mutual interests or concerns.  To make your conversation count you should aim to be respectful, curious and non-judgmental about what the other has to say and you will benefit by building a solid relationship.

The second is conversation for possibilities which involves exploring the opportunities thrown up by your relationships.  For this type of conversation to be at its most effective, you need to refrain from criticism of each other's ideas and share a commitment to exploring the possibilities suggested.  It seems there is a tightrope to be walked between an ideas free for all and the focus needed to reach a meaningful set of possibilities.

If you manage to walk that tightrope successfully you will be rewarded on the other side with conversation for action.  Conversations for action are most effective when you have a mutual commitment and sufficient possibilities have been explored to decide on the best course.  Even when instructing another person, a conversation will help to encourage the instructed to buy-in to the action and have some input on how to implement it most effectively.

You may be a natural conversationalist, you may find these steps over-analytical but if listening to others and involving them in your plan of action makes you more efficient, then that sounds like a conversation worth having.

Alex Cox