Understory, Overstory, Backstory....uncovering the whole story.
Steven Covey’s fifth habit is first to understand and then be understood. Like his other six habits, it’s timeless advice. It is also one of the first to be abused when the pressure is on, efficiency is the mantra, and short-term goals dominate.
We got a glimpse of meaningful conversation at the start of the pandemic when none of us knew what was happening, when the threat was immediate, intimate and existential, and we had to turn to each other to work things out. Conversations were richer as emotions, intuitions, and feelings took their place alongside the logic that normally ran the show. We connected in ways we had forgotten with people we normally passed by.
I think we find ourselves at something of an inflexion point, a subtle but important shift in the dynamics of creative power, as old leaders want the comfort of people where they can see them, in structures where they can feel secure in measuring performance in terms they are used to.
The challenge is that things have changed. What we can measure is about the immediate past and only a fraction of what matters as we come to terms with the threats and opportunities that technology, climate, and ecology offer us.
What matters now is relationships, connections, and other largely intangible qualities. In the uncertainty we face, every conversation we have changes us and the organisations we are part of. The more powerful and deeper the conversation, the bigger the impact and the greater the response needed from the organisation. Organisations are increasingly hosts and have the sort of power that a hotel has over its guests, who can check out physically, mentally, or emotionally any time they choose.
For the artisan in us, the company we keep and where we meet matters.
When we meet tonight, I’d like to talk about the conversations we have. Over the last three years, in the different groups that have met every week, I have noticed five distinct modes of conversation and a particular language that enables them.
As we explore them, I’ll post brief summaries here as we make the path by walking, so those that are interested can follow.