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Increasing Conversational Energy over Zoom!

Updated: Jun 2, 2021


Ryan being interviewed over Zoom by his friend Dan Loney, www.loneyfinancial.com


“Attention without intention is wasted energy. Intention should always precede attention — in fact, the two ideas pair perfectly. Intention setting allows us to decide how we should spend our time; focusing our attention on that task gets it done efficiently. The best way to become more productive is to choose what you want to accomplish before you begin working.”


— Chris Bailey


We coach hundreds of clients, executives, teams. The one consistent piece of verbiage coming from almost all of them, at every level of organization, is: "I am slammed with back-to-back Zoom calls!"


As Chris Bailey so eloquently articulates, we are struggling to pay attention, but attention without intention is wasted energy. Tony Schwartz goes so far as to suggest that “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”


During the first three quarters of the pandemic, leaders were intensely focussed on keeping their people positive, focused on their personal safety, and trying to not worrying about Covid. Today, 12 months later, leaders are tired, teams are in survival mode, and many people remain uncertain, even as many experts predict that the end could be near. One executive that I discussed this with today shared a current conundrum that their company just experienced.


The company launched a number of electronic polls asking their employees, with as much positivity as possible, how they felt about returning to the office over the next months. The results were baffling to the leadership. Forty percent of their employees were adamant that they were not coming back to the office and many were wondering, "Why are our leaders so happy and positive about all of this finally getting back in the office stuff?"


Another client was able to return 35% of their front office employees and only 10% were ready to return. Some of our clients are discussing their 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 process. One third of their people will return to the office; one third will return some of the time and one third will never come into the office. However this plays out in your work place, electronic meetings are not going away. Personal interaction may increase, but the new, new normal will still include "slammed back to back" virtual meetings. The question then has to be, how do we increase the impact and energy during these new, new normal conversations?


Conversational Energy


While transferring information and brainstorming discussions continue to play a significant part in our current conversations, another worthy component would be increased intentionality around sustaining or increasing people energy. For many of us, online communication is the only connection we receive, and potentially the only time that we have the opportunity to exchange energy.


Researchers in Italy discovered that the human brain contains what they have called mirror nuerons. This part of our brain focuses on reading the faces of the people that we are in conversation with. We have been coaching leaders lately, challenging the way they "show up"? One of our clients actually apologized to his team of executives on one of our Zoom calls. He said "when I think a lot I look angry." "I want you to know that I am not angry, I am just thinking." This huge awareness breakthrough began a team conversation about energy and being more intentional about how they lead their teams online.


Conversational Structure


For a host of reasons, some of us dance around hard conversations, while others drive hard to the point. Author and mega-popular podcast host, Tim Ferriss, has this to say on the topic: “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”


However, some people use their gift of candour in a way that reduces team energy, by focusing only on truth and forgetting to build team in the process. We believe that we should be focussing instead on finding the conversational sweet spot that tells the Truth in the context of building Team.


Primary relationship expert John Gottman reminds us that conflict does not end marriages. It is only when Conflict turns into Contempt that marriages move towards break-up. In families, on teams, and in workplaces, our goal should be to turn conversations away from contempt and towards community.


One of the executives that I coached this week shared a profound observation about contempt. He said that. "most people do not actively desire to move conversations in a way that will increase contempt and yet, people sometimes perceive contempt even when it is unintended." The perception of contempt often comes through emails or texts, even when it was never intended.


Even as we are trying to balance Truth and Team, if we slide in a contemptuous direction, this is a recipe for negative energy. Both Past-Negative Deflating and Future-Negative Paralyzing of energy deadens the conversation, regardless of how we "get to the Truth."



Finding the Truth-Team sweet-spot via a strong turn away from contempt and towards building community, is a regenerator and activator of positive conversational energy.



Conversational Planning


Now the how!

Meet the Peak-End Rule.



Recent science is suggesting that most people remember two parts of our conversations. They remember the positive or negative peak and they remember the end.


Activating a Peak-End focus can keep our Zoom conversations moving away from perceived contempt and towards intentional community. Even during heated or heavy conversations that may include some negative peaks, we can plan at least one positive peak and can certainly choose a positive ending. We strongly recommend that leaders never "give up" the end of the conversation. If nothing else utilize the positive end as your opportunity to influence energy. With a little conversational planning, leaders can intentionally generate increased positivity within our online conversations.


Turning our conversations away from contempt and towards community, while finding the Truth-Team sweet spot, generates clear conversational boundaries that can be supported with a positive peak and an energizing end process.


Intentional energy conversations, like intentional energy conservation, can more efficiently empower relationships, teams, companies and the world!


















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