When you look out across the dynamics of your workplace culture, what do you see? And, as you describe what you see, how clear is your view? How does it compare with those who live and work within the same culture? Where, if anyplace, might there be obstructions in your view – obstructions that are unintentional or perhaps intentional?
Judith E. Glaser, in Conversational Intelligence (2013) describes culture as the conversational rituals and practices of organizations. She says it is the way in which we harmonize experiences and create shared language, which in turn bridges and connects us together more fully. Culture creates a shared reality. Organizational culture defines the success of the organization. As organizations desire to move to the next level of greatness, it is all dependent on the quality of the culture and the culture depends on the quality of the conversations. “Everything happens through conversations.”
Back to your view of your organizational culture – how do you ensure that what you see is clear and accurate in your eyes and the eyes of others? What, if any, blind spots may be obstructing your view?
Below are 5 blind spots to consider as you hold conversations with others. We thank Dr. Glaser for her articulation of these blind spots. After all, and as we have been saying for years – conversations are the threads that bind us together in rich relationships. It serves us well to be on the look out for blind spots, such as:
- Holding assumptions that others see what we see, feel what we feel and think what we think.
- Failure to realize that fear, trust and distrust changes how we see and interpret reality, and therefore how we talk about it.
- An inability to stand in each other’s shoes when we are fearful or upset.
- Assuming that we remember what others say, when we actually remember what we think about what others say.
- Assuming that meaning resides in the speaker, when in fact it resides in the listener.
Blind spots spring from reality gaps. Dr. Glaser says, “Your reality and mine are not the same. You and I have different experiences, we know different people, we came from different parts of the world, and we use different language to label our world. Even those of us who are in the same room at the same time will take away different impressions of our time together.”
As we work with leaders from across the country, we are continually impressed with their desire to positively impact the culture of the organization. That means they create time and space for open and honest conversations where they listen first to understand from others’ perspectives before they speak, in a desire to create a shared understanding of the current realities and a combined effort on best ways to move forward in a productive manner. They know that the quality of the conversation is imperative for success in relationships and in results. And, they are committed to reducing their own blind spots.
Vicky Dearing, PCC, M. Ed.
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