Six Conversations


It is said that every story is based on one of six plots; some writers think of them as the six archetypes of literature, while some see them as the building blocks from which to build more complex plots and stories. While I’m not a writer, I’ve noticed a parallel in my leadership coaching of late. It seems that I’ve been having some version of the same six conversations.

My intention for sharing these trends is not to suggest that leaders don’t have unique development needs; on the contrary, every leader I coach brings a cherished set of conversations that I hope are making a positive impact in the lives of the leader, their teams, their organizations, and their communities. I share them because I think as leaders, you might be able to relate. And as you’ve read here in past posts, leadership is equal parts relating and achieving!

So what are these six trending plots – er, topics?

Commitment to the work, role or organization. This conversation asks if the people being led are engaged enough. When directed toward the leader, the leader is asking about their own commitment to the work, role or organization. They may be contemplating a shift in their career or they may be feeling the effects of burn-out.

Connection to the people we work with. Often the conversation is around the need and desire to create more collaboration and support through effective team building. Leaders want to do this for their teams AND for the leadership teams they are part of.

Competencies to do the work well. Good ol’ “KSA”: knowledge, skills and abilities. While occasionally referring to the technical or tactical, these are most often in the form of power skills – our term for what is often referred to as “soft skills,” such as interpersonal intelligence, communication, communication and, um … communication.

Capacity to do the work at the pace and quantity needed. If there’s one trend that is mentioned in nearly every conversation, it’s this one. Check out Ralph’s and my podcast on being “whelmed” here.

Character of self or the people we’re working with. It involves questioning and being questioned – not in a negative way, but rather relating to discovery and possible development for the leader or team member to have the characteristics, values and alignment to the mission they need to be effective.

Competing priorities and how to say no to them or to reprioritize through effective negotiation. This trend is absolutely related to capacity. “No” is a complete sentence. So is “Not yet.” We’re saying “Yes” far too often, to too many requests. Leaders often come to coaching conversations feeling like they cannot say “no” or “not yet” if they want to be competitive and effective. The truth is, saying “yes” to nearly everything means we’re not being as effective as we could be in most things, creating a vicious cycle that keeps us reactive and leads to significant challenges such as burn-out.

I wish there was a seventh trend so I could make a corny joke about not being a coach but rather being a navigator of the seven seas ( get it? “C’s”?) but alas, I am stalled at six. If you have a seventh, let me know … I’m still writing this story.

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  1. Mark Fuller on September 21, 2022 at 10:33 am

    Bill, I am torn between Courage and Confidence. I am immediately reminded of Susan David’s quote: “Courage is not the absence of fear; Courage is fear walking”. And Courage also means leaning into the discomfort to allow space to be stretched and grow. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. I believe the same is true with emotions.

  2. Rick Short on September 21, 2022 at 12:33 pm

    Bill, I think you said it yourself: COMMUNICATION

    It’s the grease that makes all the others work smoothly.

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