Disruptive conversations is a blog series where I record Skype conversations with people who are working to transform or disrupt a sector or system. Sometimes I do in-person interviews, but they are usually done over Skype.
This podcast was recorded on Skype.
For my first 30 episodes music was provided by Clint Harewood.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
S3: Ep. 97: Be a billionaire of influencing positive outcomes. A Disruptive Conversation with Joel Solomon
Influence and impact of money and how to make it a force for good
S3: Ep. 96:We build our world conversation by conversation. A Disruptive Conversations with Elizabeth Stokoe.
Elizabeth Stokoe is a conversational analyst. This means she studies conversation in the wild. She looks at real-life conversations works to understand how talk works. Her work focuses on social interactions. What are people doing as they interact?
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
We build our world through social interactions.
This may seem obvious, yet so few of us pay attention to the things we do and say daily. I have come to believe that the things we say and do build our future. In this conversation, Elizabeth and I tune into the conversations play in shaping our interactions.
Revel in working with people who are better than you.
When I asked Elizabeth about the best lesson, she ever learned she told a beautiful story about her dad. Her dad was a teacher. He taught woodwork. Elizabeth explained that he would revel in working with students who were or would one day be better than he was. I found this to be such a glorious insight. Her dad wanted his students to be better than he was. He wanted his students to pursue and treat woodwork in the same way they would treat traditional professions. Perhaps most insightful for me here is that we then get scared or intimidated by the competition. How would your life be different if you found really talented people and worked to support them?
People show you what matter to them.
We had a nerdy conversation about research, but I love that Elizabeth used a research lesson to demonstrate the impact of what she does. For example, she pointed out that people show you what they care about in the words they use. Someone might say, “oh, you know, there were three girls, sorry, women”. This self-policing demonstrates what people care about. Her research uses examples to show how gender is constructed and how our interactions build our gendered constructs.
Communication science is likely the most important thing to understand in the 21st Century.
I often refer to this as the debate between big data and thick data. Thick data is qualitative research that goes deep. Elizabeth’s work is a great example of how thick data can be so informative. She uses thick data to bust very compelling myths about conversation and communication. For example, there is an extensive belief that communication is largely done through our bodies. It is based on a study that did not actually find that. If however, that was true, we would not be able to communicate in the dark. We would not be able to talk on the phone. Researchers like Elizabeth helps understand the world just a little better so we can bust these very compelling myths.
Conversations are organized and messy.
In our conversation, Elizabeth also described talk as being full of idiosyncrasy, yet massively systematic. She gave a great metaphor for thinking about it. “Imagine you are in a helicopter or a hot air balloon high above a field. You can see from above what the path is. Now imagine that you’re looking down on that field and you can see a dog walker and their dog. The dog is on one of those long leads that extend and retracts. When you look down in one field, you see the dog walker and the dog. They’re basically moving across that field in a fairly predictable way along the path without much variation. They transverse the field. When you look down again, there’s another dog walker and their dog. This time the dog is absolutely all over the place and the dog walkers got to keep going back and get them out of the field and come off the path. But you also know from above that you can see where they’re going to end up because that’s kind of where everyone ends up.” This is what a conversation looks like. We often end up in a predictable place.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is when you sort of get from one point to another. We hope we can minimize friction,...
S3: Ep. 95: Bringing out the best in others is not a logical endeavour.A Disruptive Conversations with Dr Larry Richard.
Dr Larry Richard is a former Lawyer, who now works to understand what makes Lawyers tick. In our conversation, he shares his findings from his work with lawyers. His major insight is that skills and tools that make Lawyers good at law do not necessarily make them good leaders. In analyzing a variety of personality assessment tools, he found that Lawyers tend to be overrepresented in various traits. For example, when you analyze a population using the Caliper tool, you usually get most people scoring around 50 on each trait. With Lawyers, you get seven traits where the majority score outside of the middle range, usually 40-60
Scepticism being the most dominant. The challenge is that although these traits help with performance as a lawyer, they are often less helpful in things like Leadership. In today’s world, for Lawyers to be successful, they also need to develop skills for which a larger portion do not score well.
Here are some of the other insights that stood out for me.
Leadership is about admitting you do not know the way forward.
Having worked with many Leaders, very few are willing to admit that they do not know. Richard commented, “leadership demands that you ask your constituents to trust you as a way of getting them to follow you.” For him, “Leadership isn’t necessary when things are stable. Leadership only needs to emerge when things are changing and uncertain. So leaders can never say, I guarantee this is the right path, which means they always have to say to their constituents, I think this is the right path. Follow me, please trust me.” His point is that because Lawyers are so high in scepticism, it is difficult for them to trust others and ask for trust. Lawyers then are immediately in a dilemma. Asking for and gaining trust from a group of people predisposed to be, and trained to be sceptics, is hard at the best of times. Additionally, in my experience, most people think leaders need to know it all.
When should you choose emotion over logic?
When you are trying to get people to do teamwork, logic can be helpful. Emotions, however, can get you there faster and easier. Logic is a great tool for finding solutions. When it comes to implementing solutions, however, we need to leverage emotions.
Bringing out the best in others is not a logical endeavor.
People are multifaceted. In our conversation, we talk about how, for some people, their talents may not be valuable, until a particular context arises. People are complex and multifaceted. Bringing out the best in others is not a logical endeavour.
Boost performance by helping people find satisfaction and productivity.
In our conversation, we share some of our insights on workplace performance. One conversation that stood out for me is that insight that productivity and satisfaction feed each other. This really resonated with me. Effectively doing things with less friction and better results can be the holy grail of many people’s performance. Workplace engagement has a satisfaction component and an engagement component. When you can connect the two, you increase performance.
Avoiding the hedonic treadmill.
For so many of us, we spend our lives chasing the next goal. In our conversation, we talk about how lawyers are prone to get stuck on the hedonic treadmill. They chase the next thing. I will be happy when I become a partner. I will be happy when I get that new house. When we met those goals, we set new ones. This is the hedonic treadmill. In my own work, we help people work from a lens of consciousness. We help people be intentional about how they spend their time. Doing things today that give them what they want in the future.
Sometimes people are their own worst enemy.
We have a conversation about we often get in our own way. When we look at the things we want to achieve, often the biggest barrier is...
S3: Ep. 94:What is the default setting for your conversations? A Disruptive Conversations with Daniel Stillman.
In this conversation with Daniel, you hear from two people who are really fascinated with understanding conversations. We take a practical and philosophical journey thinking about and exploring our current thoughts on conversations.
Here are some of the things that stood out for me in this conversation.
We are designing conversations all the time.
If you have ever asked a friend to read an email, you are about to send. If you thought to yourself “how should I say this?” If you have ever done anything similar to that, you were designing a conversation. We design conversations all the time. The challenge is that we are not often intentional about designing our conversations. In this conversation, Daniel gives some great tips on how you should approach designing conversations. In his words, “We’re all designed in conversations to try and titrate and clarify our intent in hopes of achieving our goals.” You should also visit his website: The Conversation Factory to read his book and download some great material.
We have conversations all the time, yet we spend very little time thinking about them.
Daniel spends a lot of time thinking about and designing conversations. We communicate every day, yet very few of us thinking about this action we take that builds our future. One of the ways to design a conversation is to be as specific as possible.
Conversations have structure.
Spaces influence the conversations we have. This space can be physical, or it can be the space between words. All our conversations have a structure. Most of the times, we are not aware of the structure. Space is just one example of the elements that influence our conversations. In his book, Daniel outlines what he calls the Nine Elements of the Conversation Operation System. The elements are:
Error and Repair.
I strongly suggest reading his book. It is both a great introduction to conversations and an excellent summary of help frameworks for designing conversations.
What are you tuning into in a conversation?
In conversation, we tune into things. Sometimes we are intentional about what we tune into. However, most of the time, we are unintentional. There is considerable value in paying attention to what you are attending to in your conversations.
Design your conversations
We set up our spaces to have conversations. The spaces in which we have conversation speak to the kinds of conversations we can have. One of the things that Daniel has helped me do is to double down on my belief that people should be designing their conversations. He helps people do it for a living. In the same way that we work on other skills, we should strive to have better conversations.
Designing the conversations starts before the conversation.
In the podcast, we talk about designing conversations within a facilitation setting. This principle, however, is one that I believe should apply to any important conversation. If you have a conversation that matters, try designing it before you enter the conversation.
There is value in silence.
One of the easiest ways to design your conversations is by leveraging silence. There is, however, a caveat, most of us respond after about two hundred milliseconds. In conversations, if we take longer than that to respond, our brains interpret that as trouble ahead. So ask permission to think for a bit. Having said that, silence can give you tremendous control in conversations. Use it wisely. Before we segue off of this point, here is something to think about. We can think at 4000 words per minute, yet we speak at 125 words per minute. What does this mean? It mainly means that you are getting only a small portion of what they are thinking when someone is speaking....
S3: Ep. 93: Is it okay to be you in the world? A Disruptive Conversations with Dan Doty.
Dan Doty describes himself as a father, husband, entrepreneur and outdoorsman. He is the co-founder of Everyman. A global organization that brings men together to learn and practice emotional skill sets. Men too can learn to be in touch with the vulnerable parts of life. They can learn to express as fully as possible.
This conversation with Dan was an inspiring one. Here are a few of the things that stood out for me.
It stops with me.
Perhaps the most powerful thing I took away from this conversation is that more and more men are saying no. They are saying that no exploring the full spectrum of masculinity stops with me. This is a powerful statement and undercurrent to notice. I love this as a potential movement that we may see in the world.
Society has gap in it defines and prescribe masculinity.
The make experience ought not to be defined or prescribed too narrowly. Masculinity should explore the full spectrum of human emotions. What does it mean to be a man? Although there seem to be many groups grappling with this question. Dan’s work seems to be one of gaining significant traction. We explore how so few men had fathers who were present during their childhood. We talk about what it means to be a good husband. The time has come for men to explore the full spectrum of the human experience. Talk about ‘girly’ stuff. To broaden the definition of what it means to be a man.
A different way is possible.
In this episode, Dan tells the story of attending his first men’s group. Past podcast guests have described similar experiences of being introduced into another world. It makes me wonder about the role of experience in our journey. How not knowing there was another way limits the choices we make. I love that he and I explore this question throughout the episode.
Meditation and outdoors
When I asked Dan about the best lessons he ever learned, he talked about mediation and being outdoors. I could not help be see the obvious connection. Using being outdoors as a time to do active mediation. As someone sceptical about the role of meditation. It leaves me with questions. For example, what is the value of intentionally allowing your mind to rest?
We can find sanctuary wherever we are.
Dan describes how finding the men’s group gave him a similar experience to being outdoors. The idea that he did not have to get outdoors to find sanctuary. This is powerful. It reminds us that we can use the resources we have access to. This may sound like a simple insight, but it is profound.
What does it mean to be married to a mother?
Since becoming a father, the question, “What does it mean to be married to a mother?”, has sat with me. In response, a friend asked, “What is like for your wife to be married to a father?” The mirror question had not crossed my mind. So, “What does it mean to be married to a father?” In one action, my identify changed, and so too did my wife’s. I had been so focused on supporting my family. I had not thought about how my needs. How have my needs changed since becoming a father? What does this new me want? What are his hopes, dreams, and desires? These are all new questions for me to sit with and explore.
What would we notice if masculinity was healthier?
Dan pointed out to me that men who had supportive families are rare. He also noticed that perhaps adults who had parents who were happily married are also rare. So what would it be like to live in a world where neither of these was rare? I loved this question as a place to land in my conversation with Dan. I have no answers. I do enjoy that I get to sit with these questions.
S3: Ep. 92:To change your life, you need to change something you do every day. A Disruptive Conversation with Liz Elam.
In this episode of Disruptive Conversations, we hear from Liz Elam, founder of the largest coworking conference in the world know as the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC). There are a number of great takeaways.
Here are a few of the insights I found helpful.
To change your life, you have to change something you do every day.
Later in the episode, Liz shares that it took her some time to come to terms with the word alcoholic. She is now 11 years sober. When she said, “to change your life, you need to change something you do every day,” she was talking about things like exercise habits or losing weight. Later in the episode when she talked about AA meetings, it put this comment into perspective. It seems simple, yet it is so profound. She changed something she was regularly doing, and it changed her life. What is something you can change today that will change your life tomorrow?
Where work needs to be design for wellness.
A major theme in this episode is that work environments are not often designed for people to thrive. Take air quality as an example. Do you know how good the air in your building is? Is your physical work environment designed to help you thrive daily? Chances are it is not. Yet, we spend a lot of our time working in unhealthy spaces. This idea again seems simple but is so disruptive.
Work is also about community.
Loneliness is an epidemic in our society. One of the ways we can combat loneliness is by building communities in the workplace. Coworking offers a great avenue for addresses workplaces needs and community needs. It could be how we begin to address the epidemic of loneliness.
People have choices or should have choices.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that we can work differently. People can have choices. For example, some people may prefer to have to visit regularly. Others may prefer to work at home. Still, others might prefer to work in a coworking space. The future of work will likely include choices and companies who able to offer their employees choices will likely thrive in the long-term.
Mr CEO, your biggest changes are going to be talent attraction and retention.
To attract and retain the best people, companies are going to have to think about the environments in which their best people work. One way to both attract and retain the best talent is to give them a choice in how they work. In today’s world, this is not a difficult proposition. The future of work will likely include choices for companies who manage to attract and retain the most talented.
There are many other insights in this episode. To dive deeper into this episode, take a listen below. Also visit:
Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) https://gcuc.co/