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VOL. 41 | NO. 11 | Friday, March 17, 2017

What is your team’s conversational capacity?

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The secret to a successful sales team – or any type of team, for that matter – is its ability to perform when the pressure is on. That can only happen when the team is able to have open, non-defensive dialogue about tough issues.

It makes all the difference between success and failure, and there are numerous examples of it in corporate America that prove just that.

Craig Weber, in his book “Conversational Capacity,” defines a healthy team as one that can tackle the toughest of issues – under extreme pressure – while maintaining a healthy balance of candor and curiosity. If there are undiscussable issues that people are nervous to bring up, you have low conversational capacity.

Similarly, if members of your team are too focused on winning or being right versus having the curiosity to understand why others have an opposing point of view, conversational capacity is also low. The ideal state is a healthy balance of candor and curiosity.

After all, you invest in smart, talented people because you want their insights and ideas.

If you wanted them to just agree with you and not help you see blind spots, then you wouldn’t need to hire such talented people.

First of a two-part series

To get the most out of them, you must inspire them to engage in healthy conflict by raising your team’s conversational capacity.

Where is your team’s conversational capacity? Here are some signs that members of your team are not being candid and holding back on vital input:

l They shut down, cover up issues or sugar-coat what’s happening inside your organization.

l They email versus talk face to face about tough subjects or might feign agreement when you ask for input in person.

Did you know that as a CEO or manager, your mere presence in the room can shut down candor despite your best intentions? Eighty percent of airline crashes occur because someone failed to speak up about an error. Don’t let your company crash. Encourage candor.

On the flip side, some of your team members may prefer to win at any cost versus having the curiosity to ask those with opposing views how they see the situation differently. They’re like flamethrowers in a team meeting.

This is an equally destructive communication style to those who aren’t comfortable speaking up at all. These employees dominate conversations with aggressive body language or a loud tone of voice, they are poor listeners, and they are known to dismiss others by speaking over them or rolling their eyes.

Check back next week for practical tips on dramatically improving the conversational capacity of your team – whether it be a sales team, leadership team or any team for that matter.

Lori Turner-Wilson, CEO and founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at redrovercompany.com.

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