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Future Engage Deliver


One way to read whether a leader is likely to deliver is to notice the quality of conversation they create. Larry Bossidy looks for Robust Dialogue:

You cannot have an execution culture without Robust Dialogue - one that brings reality to the surface through openness, candour, and informality. Robust Dialogue makes an organization effective in gathering information, understanding the information, and reshaping it to produce decisions. It fosters creativity - most innovations and inventions are incubated through Robust Dialogue. Ultimately, it creates more competitive advantage and shareholder value.

And in particular, I look for what sort of requests is a leader making. Robert Schaffer believes making Big Requests is a greatly underdeveloped Leadership Muscle:

In company after company, I have asked managers to estimate how much more their organisations would produce if units began to work more in sync with each other, if people worked more closely to their real potential, and if they dissipated less energy in political hassles, useless meetings and projects that go nowhere. Not surprisingly, almost everyone has selected the '25% to 50%' and the 'Over 50%' categories.
With all this latent potential evident, why hasn't there been more progress toward meeting the global competitive challenge? I am as convinced as I was 17 years ago that the principal reason is that few managers possess the capacity or feel compelled to establish high performance-improvement expectations in ways that elicit results. This capacity continues to be the most universally underdeveloped managerial skill.

In order to get a real conversation, you have to drop artificial language, you have to drop politics and you have to drop an environment based on fear and hiding. People must be encouraged not only to know their craft, products, their work, but to know a little of themselves.
David Whyte Close
Only the leader can set the tone of the dialogue in the organisation. Dialogue is the core of culture and the basic unit of work. How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organisation will function. Is the dialogue stilted, politicised, fragmented, and buttcovering? Or is it candid and reality-based, raising the right questions, debating them, and finding realistic solutions? If it's the former - as it is in all too many companies - reality will never come to the surface. If it is to be the latter, the leader has to be on the playing field with his management team, practising it constantly and forcefully.
Larry Bossidy Close