— Judith Glaser, Conversational Intelligence®
Discovering the Power of Questions
I believe that the power of questions and conversations to catalyze transformation is significantly undervalued and largely unrecognized. This idea was certainly true in my case, and I think it's true for many others too.
We hear a lot about digital, agile, and lean transformation but not enough about conversational leadership and transformation. In my opinion, conversations and questions are at the core of true, lasting, and successful change.
I didn't arrive at this understanding in a sudden aha. But rather, it's been a long and slow process over the past 13 years.
So often we overlook the most simple and basic solutions that are right in front of us. We all know how to ask questions and have conversations, right?
My first glimpse of the power of questions came in 2010 when I interviewed experts and well-known change practitioners by asking a simple question, "What is your best process improvement strategy that has worked really well for you?"
To my surprise and to the surprise of many people who read my interviews, it was rarely a response about process improvement!
More often, their responses were about something more fundamental. New questions, leadership, listening, trust, collaboration, etc. I was shocked, really. Not necessarily surprised by the answers themselves but by where the responses were coming from
When people responded to my questions, I wasn't getting canned answers. I witnessed people pausing, taking a breath, and answering from a deeper place. I knew I was on to something.
Discovering the Power of Conversation
In 2014, I began a one-year term as the program chairperson for the annual conference held by the Chesapeake Bay Organizational Development Network in the Washington, DC, Metro area.
The keynote speaker we chose for the conference was the late Judith Glaser, Founder of Creating WE and the author of numerous books on leadership and conversation. She had just published her latest book, Conversational Intelligence, which she wanted to focus on at the conference.
In my role as program chair, it was my job to work with Judith to plan and coordinate all the pre-conference and conference events with her.
I was unfamiliar with Judith or any of her books before this time, so I took it upon myself to read Conversational Intelligence before we talked for the first time. In all honesty, conversation was not a hot topic for me, and at the time, it was not an idea that I was convinced deserved all the attention it was getting.
Nonetheless, I kept an open mind and found myself receiving a world-class education from someone who was probably the world's leading authority on conversations.
One key quote in Judith's book got my attention, and it was also a phrase I heard Judith repeatedly recite throughout our conversations and the conference.
To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of the conversations. Everything happens through conversations!
Validating the Forward Thinking Workplaces Conversation
When I first conceived the idea of Forward Thinking Workplaces in 2015, I wasn't convinced it was a conversation that I could have and move forward.
I also wasn't sure I was asking the right questions, and I wasn't confident I would find enough leaders who would be receptive to answering the questions.
Most leaders will not engage in the Forward Thinking Workplaces conversation because they are not ready to face and lead the changes it would introduce.
Nonetheless, Judith Glaser was one of the first three people I selected to interview to validate my questions and whether this was a conversation worth having.
Judith became one of the most vocal and visible supporters of Forward Thinking Workplaces. If it hadn't been for her overwhelming and heartfelt support, Forward Thinking Workplaces would not exist.
My interview with her, How Do We Tap into the Best Conversations that People Could Have?, has been one of the most popular and widely read interviews I've ever done.
Sadly, Judith passed away in 2018 after losing a battle with cancer. I never knew it. She never let it impact her work and interactions with me.
Thank you, Judith, for your tireless and passionate work that helps us all have better conversations and create a better world.
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— Bill Fox, Founder, Space Beyond Boundaries