Conversation: An Operating System to Talk About

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Conversation already exists in your organization. It is up to leaders to learn how to utilize it as the most powerful operating system.

You may not realize it, but your organization is home to a very powerful operating system (O/S).
 
According to howstuffworks.com, an operating system has a simple purpose: it “organizes and controls hardware and software so the device it lives in can behave in a predictable but flexible way.”

Now, think outside the realm of technology. What else in your workplace has the potential to engage and energize your employees, keep employee behavior in check, bring teams closer together, create a high-performing workforce and keep your business running smoothly?
 
It’s not traditional employee engagement methods like surveys, town halls, newsletters and departmental action plans. It’s something much more fundamental than that.

It’s conversation.

Related Article: How the Power of Conversation Can Grow Your Business

Think of it: conversation is the common denominator behind “apps” like customer service, feedback, coaching, strategy and innovation. Conversation—that is, quality, meaningful conversation between leaders and employees—powers up all the things that make a business successful.
 
Not sure you agree that conversation is your organization’s most mighty O/S? Consider what would happen without conversation. All those apps would crash—and your business would fail.

Talking Heads

Let’s go a bit more “micro” and look at the human brain.
 
Conversation is, essentially, our brain’s O/S. This is because every single message transmitted from one neuron to another enables us to see, hear, move...and think. If all those 100 billion neurons were to stop talking to one another, our bodies and ability to process information would cease to function.
 
Meanwhile, science shows us that our own brains are significantly strengthened and enhanced by social conversations “between brains.” This is our native wiring: and consequently, the perfect O/S that we need to connect, understand and harmonize with others.
 
So, as neuronal conversations are the way the brain gets things done, employee conversations are the way that organizations get things done.
 
With this in mind, then, why do organizations not integrate conversation into their own employee engagement initiatives?

Related Article: How to Improve Relations Between Your Managers and Employees

Ignoring Conversation = Missed Opportunities

Using engagement surveys as an example, consider how organizations often deal with results.

Rather than pause to consider the “why” behind results, leaders will rush to create strategies—one-size-fits-all, broad-brush strategies built on nothing but numbers.

But employees do not respond well to global solutions. They want to know that they have been listened to. Leaders who draft plans without taking time to consider context practically guarantee employee non-compliance to any engagement initiative.

Conversation has many benefits, including offering leaders with a clear understanding of the “backstory” behind engagement scores. Organizations that ignore the importance of conversation are missing out on a range of opportunities to create a higher-performing workforce.  

Here’s why: science shows that when you have meaningful, face-to-face conversations that demonstrate value, respect and care, this boosts the brain’s processing power—forming a feel-good energy cocktail of connection, calm, concentration, creativity and curiosity. It also leads to less fear and worry in the system, promoting trust and deepening the leader-employee relationship.

Moving beyond engagement as we know it today is about honoring our native wiring, which needs to use conversation to drive and power up the apps that make things easier and produce great results.

Everything changes for the better when leaders use conversation to draw out what matters most to employees. Not only does this enable the co-creation of conditions that generate meaningful, sustainable energy; but employees also begin to manage their own engagement.

No Time to Talk?

Don’t feel you have time to talk to your employees?
 
Consider this: concerns that are unaddressed tend to fester and simmer. And then—they turn into “crucial,” “fierce” or “difficult” conversations—consuming multiples of energy, time and mind-space from everyone in the organization.

We’ve relegated to the episodic, but it needs to be part of the fabric of everyday life. Every conversation matters.
 
Leaders save themselves a lot of headaches when they move beyond engagement as we know it today, and honor how the brain works.
 
And not only that: conversations don’t have to take up a lot of time.
 
Short, simple “Energy Check” conversations are a proven and effective way to unlock insight and possibility in your employees’ minds. It can be as simple as asking employees what is energizing them at the moment, and what is depleting their energy. Done systematically, this technique can catch issues before they become calamity-based, saving time in the process.

Conversation creates natural opportunities to unlock insight and possibility in employees’ minds. This generates energy, which fuels a great customer experience and great results. Because of that, conversation is an O/S that costs little—but yields much, much more than you likely ever thought possible.

Easy to Install 

Conversation already exists in your organization. It’s simply up to leaders to embrace it as the key operating system that drives the business—and shifting their mindset to include conversation in all engagement endeavors. In doing so, leaders generate energy, fuel a great customer experience as well as business results, and can make a monumental difference in the lives and abilities of their employees.

Through conversation, entire organizations can become hubs of sustainable passion, innovation and enthusiasm—essentially, the epitome of a truly engaged workforce.

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