Conversation with a seven year old

Published on March 10, 2017

When I am not with clients I work from home. On the days I do, invariably my partner and her seven-year old daughter return home after school and make faces at me through the window of my office. The standing joke being that, "All Matt does all day is sit at his desk playing with his beard staring at a computer screen." Some days that's probably the truth.

A recent occurrence of this now familiar and welcome routine led to the question from Mimi "Matt, what do you do?" After some hesitation, reflection, and management of my ego, I replied, "I am kind of like a teacher or coach who helps people talk better together so they can achieve the things they want." That seemed to satisfy her enquiry and reminded me of how determined we are to complicate things at times.

In a previous life I worked in marketing and communications; "explain it to a kid" always proved a useful question in simplifying the central message in any activity. Kids don't care about how clever you are, how flash you sound, or any need you have for grandiose descriptions. And your importance is relative only to how interesting you are in the present moment. Kids tell the truth and they ask questions when they are curious without applying any learned filters. Inviting conversation with a seven year old seems like a useful regular practice.

At the time of this question I was busy creating the content of my website, and more specifically attempting to be clear about the particular approach to leadership development I take. For the leaders I work with in business and professional sport, I believe success is ultimately achieved via the conversations they are able to have and facilitate.

In the journey that often takes people from expert to the more complex challenges of enrolling and activating a team, leaders are confronted with letting go of the skills that built their early success, and taking a deep dive into people dynamics. It's not that their expertise doesn't matter anymore, to the contrary that expertise gives them the credibility and context for the new challenge. However their job has changed - the realisation becomes that value is now delivered for the business through relationship and conversation. And as those leaders move to increasingly senior positions, this becomes a greater truth.

What better conversations do you want your team and organisation to be having?

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