The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results by Jeffrey Ford and Laurie Ford, Berrett-Koehler, 238 Pages, $19.95, Paperback, August 2009, ISBN 9781576759202
Communication is the foundation of relationships, whether personal or professional, and rarely are we trained in how to improve those skills. Instead, experience tends to be our guide. We use commands and requests, whatever has worked for us in the past. The Four Conversations shows that we may not be taking full advantage of the tools available to us.
Jeffrey and Laurie Ford believe conversation can be classified into four types. Initiative conversations set the vision and direction, like John F. Kennedy’s 1961 speech that committed to putting men on the moon. If initiative conversations are about what, when, and why, understanding discussions answer the who and the how. These conversations ground individuals at the start of a project by laying out the roles they will play, and reinforce the value of the initiative. Understanding conversations do not create action, however. That’s the purpose of performance conversations: asking that something be done and obtaining a promise for completion. Closure conversations mark an ending and create the opportunity for new beginnings.
The authors make a clear argument for just why it is so important to become more aware of our own tendencies toward how we use these types of conversations. Using the four conversations with a more balanced and/or intentional approach in the workplace leads to better productivity and results. Reducing tardiness on projects comes from using all four types effectively. Closure conversations heal wounds. Interrogating performance excuses can reveal whether individuals did everything they could. Altering the rate of progress toward a goal is as simple as increasing the frequency and the magnitude of what you ask for.
The Four Conversations is a generalist book that anyone can use to his or her advantage. The authors’ holistic view of communication pulls together concepts commonly needed in the areas of leadership, management, and change initiatives. I like books that are applicable and can produce powerful results, and The Four Conversations meets both criteria. It provides an opportunity to improve yourself and your business by improving your communication skills.