Is Your Dialogue Really a Monologue?

Karrie swears she is getting – and using – input from her people to make decisions. “The teachers and principals said they wanted these changes, so I approved them,” she insists. Karrie is a School Superintendent, with 8 School Principals reporting to her.

One teacher disagreed, saying “We never had a voice in the changes or their timing. It takes a lot of work to change courses and we should have planned this together.”

Karrie genuinely believes her decisions were the result of a dialogue, but another teacher said, “All we heard was the decision.” “She had a monologue, listening only to herself.”

Understanding Conversations are dialogues –listening is a key part of that. If we want other people to be engaged in making something happen, we need to tell them 3 things:

  1. The goal (What),
  2. The timeline (When), and
  3. The value (Why).

Then we need to ask 3 questions:

  1. Is there a better way to state the goal, timeline, or value?
  2. What are your ideas about how we could reach that goal by that time?
  3. Who or what else should be involved to reach that goal?

Then listen. Use people’s ideas and answers to help rephrase the goal so it’s more understandable and attractive. Collect good ideas on how to proceed. Without that, we cannot really claim to have had a dialogue.

Karrie had had a coffee-meeting with 2 of her Superintendents and assumed they represented their teachers, bypassing the dialogue. Now she’s got a problem.

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