The article “Leadership Is a Conversation.” is one of the most widely read and downloaded in the Harvard Business Review’s history and, not-so-coincidentally, parallels the most effective aspects of graphic facilitation.
To name just a few characteristics critical to both an effective conversation, meeting or engagement session:
- INTIMACY is a form of breaking down the distance between leaders and employees—institutional, attitudinal and sometimes spacial. Very similar to my own distinction in the way I have tried to use conversations as a way to allow employees to ask and have leaders answer questions in an open forum rather than a formal, top-down manner. The visual process allows this to happen in a playful yet directed way, using templates to guide the process.
- INTERACTIVITY suggests that employees and leaders need to be engaged in a dialogue rather than the monologue that typically occurs in a PowerPoint presentation. Sadly, PowerPoint has become such a destructive tool to organizational learning, killing conversation and allowing presenters to simply read from slides rather than engage their audience. The visual mapping process, on the other hand, allows participants to build on ideas and see the bigger ideas behind their thinking.
- INCLUSION allows for democratic participation: everyone participates and therefore owns the conversation and its outcome. In the old model, leaders could control content and what employees heard, but particularly through the process of Graphic Facilitation, every member of a team is given the opportunity to be heard. I often allow time at the end of a strategic session to let people talk about what the session themes and key messages were so that they can consistently carry back messages to the organization.
- INTENTIONALITY means there is a purpose to the conversation, rather than a meandering, casual conversation. There is a purpose to the conversation that is clear to everyone involved. When I design activities into a meeting, they serve a strategic purpose rather than just acting as “team building for team building sake.”
How do you use conversations as a way to involve employees?