Teams are just a collage of conversations. Some of them are successful, some not so much. But these conversations weave a fine thread, and it is in their mesh that the team thrives.
The insights about what makes a great team, understanding the role of conversations, the talk–action as a single spectrum and the triadic architectonic of intentions, dialogue and action are the fundamentals of any successful conversation.
‘To as many reasons as conversations, every conversation can be made positive.’
But how do we operationalize these theories, experiences and reflections into a conversation?
That’s what the VITAL—a positive conversation framework– provides. This book uses the term VITAL as a powerful acronym which operationalizes action inside a conversation. If managers and leaders want to master their conversations, then this frame- work is not discretionary, it is imperative.
The five steps in the VITAL framework are provided in the following table.
When conversations are first visualized, we become aware of our intentions, context and purpose of the talk.
As individuals, teams or organizations, are you visualizing your talks and preparing for it first? And, importantly, are you supporting your team in their internal conversation?
This first step is about the initiator. If that is you in the conversation, run your internal dialogue first to prepare.
An invitation in a talk sets the context. It defines the scope, the direction you want the talk to
take and who are the participants. An invite also shows that you care about the collective ideas.
This step specifically looks at distinguishing between the elements in a conversation: initiator, participant and topic/problem.
Transform to conversation chrysalis
For deeper, generative conversations, a safe space needs to be created and held by all the participants.
This is the conversation chrysalis—a space where individuals can come in with the unique thoughts and speak without being judged.
The central outcome of any good conversation is action. This step looks into the gaps that stop talks from reaching action steps and a four-level clarity to address them.
The 3 steps are:
1. identifying goals
2. integrating commitment and accountability
3. Establishing support.
Learning in reflection
Learning is itself a form of evolution, and although sometimes it’s hard to believe, our conversations are changing for the better. Learning in reflection is a conscious and deliberate process of reflecting on the conversation and action. This step introduces the talk–action–reflection (TAR) cycle.
The VITAL framework can be used by a large variety of people from a large number of backgrounds.
For instance, maybe you lead a team in your organization and face the typical leadership challenges for your team—they are polite and run superficial meetings, you feel they are minimizing their individual capacity or you see conflict-ridden atmosphere. Maybe strategies are not delved deeper or targets are bounced off each other as a ping-pong game and accountability falls down. The VITAL framework can help you move to a deeper level of conversation and connection with your team.
Maybe you are a project manager managing cross-cultural teams. Your team brings with it problems in multicultural hues in perspective, thinking and action. The VITAL framework enables people to make sense of their differences fostering understanding and trust among them.
Or maybe you lead and nurture students in a classroom. Your challenges lie in inculcating collective learning, listening and exhibiting curiosity, respecting differences and building resilience. The VITAL framework empowers educators to shift their learning from a passive mode to an active experience.
Of course, conversations are the bedrock of every relationship—as friends, parents, children, spouse or sibling. The VITAL framework helps you navigate these conversations with ease to build deeper, honest relationships.
Whatever your role in life or organization is, you are part of a team. The VITAL framework works on three levels.
Individual: Deeper conversations for every individual will build better relationships, leadership and personal growth. Let us stop skirting our thoughts and talk on the outer edges of the problem, confidently deep dive. To experience the fun and joy of human interaction and consider everything on our path as an opportunity to connect.
Teams: This book is targeted at teams, and the benefits are maximum here. The VITAL framework helps improve all the 10 aspects of a highly engaged, high-performing team in the talk–action spectrum.
Organization: It builds a positive conversational workplace by ensuring that conversations form the foundational rhythm on which engagement and performance thrive, creating a positive conversational culture.
We all want to be the collaborative, fun loving, high performing, adrenaline rushing, totally loyal team and yet that kind of teams are a rarity. Therefore, good intentions are never good enough. Understanding how the framework works is like learning horse riding on YouTube. We may pick up a few tricks, but it is only when we actually sit on that horse, feel the rhythm with the animal and actually try to stay on when it gallops that we begin the learning. In the same way is a conversation. Our internal inertia and olden ways will try to resist, and the alignment of all elements inside a conversation may get difficult when emotions rise or when the stakes are high. The important thing to remember is to practise.
Learning the framework may take a few interventions, but to live it and its mastery requires a lifetime
A single conversation may not collectively create a positive workplace; however, any one conversation can create such a workplace too.
Excerpted from Talk Action: How Successful Teams Align Conversations with Action by Latha Vijaybaskar, with permission from the publisher SAGE Publications India.