Written by Emily Cosgrove, Co-Founder of The Conversation Space
It was a pleasure and true privilege to spend a morning last month with a group of over 30 Mentoring Programme Managers who gathered from as many countries around the globe, to attend the annual Youth Business International Global Mentoring Masterclass.
They spent the week looking at their personal development and gathering new ideas to take back to their mentoring programmes. Never before have I been in a room with such a diverse, inspiring and engaging group of people, all focused on supporting mentoring programmes and mentoring conversations. It was a really great opportunity to glimpse the incredible work being done around the globe by YBI’s extensive network and hear some stories from that world.
20 or more years ago, when I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I found my own mentor and we made our own (sometimes bumpy) way. Had there been access to something like YBI then, I know I would have jumped at the opportunity. My job on the day spent with YBI was to introduce our Conversation Space philosophy and framework, Conversational Wisdom, which has grown out of the award winning research we published last year, Mastering Conversation.
Conversational Wisdom is having the vision to recognise that the essential elements, the core requisites, for all quality conversations (Being Human, Being Skilled and Being Aware) can be practised and used purposely to achieve a desired conversational outcome.
Conversational Wisdom is especially relevant to mentoring because it focuses not only on the craft of having good conversations but also the purpose and aims of those conversations. Mentoring pairs often focus in far greater detail on goals, objectives and desired outcomes than on building rapport and strengthening the relationship, which is crucial in the early days.
Giving more attention to being human, being skilled and being aware in mentoring relationships and conversations can deeply enhance both the experience and the success of mentoring. But the impact of Conversational Wisdom is not limited to mentoring. One newly appointed CEO described her take on how using the philosophy that this tool offers can make a difference to individuals, teams and ultimately organisations;
“If you’ve ever been moved or changed by a conversation someone has taken the time to have with you, I can bet you it’s something they have spent time learning how to do, and a lifetime getting better at. We’re so busy these days, all we tend to do is talk to gain information - narrowing down as quickly as we can to the heart of the subject, so that we can tick a box and move on. Watch what an open question conversation does to open up the richness of that chat. And how it makes that person feel. What’s more you learn about what’s really going on with them. Now imagine giving that same feeling to everyone in your team tomorrow, and what they might achieve. I am so passionate about the power of conversation, both as a leader and a champion of diversity, because it really is the key to change.” - Client, The Conversation Space
The morning with YBI gave everyone in the room the chance to get to grips with the core elements of ‘Being Human’, ‘Being Skilled’ and ‘Being Aware’, explore them for themselves and consider their relevance when applied to a mentoring context and relationship.
To explore ‘Being Human’, we walked and talked, sharing meaningful insights to help connect on a more human level with those colleagues we didn't know so well. We experienced the vulnerability of talking about ourselves in a different way with colleagues we may have known for a long time, but never shared so much with. We became more curious about each other and built stronger relationships in the process.
Giving focus to ‘Being Skilled’, we listened with head, heart and gut. This enabled us to glimpse the vast amount of information available to us all if we are willing to listen with more than our ears and our eyes. To delve deeper into what ‘Being Aware’ in the context of a conversation means, we practiced our unspoken conversations with ‘thinking partners’, because often that is what mentoring is all about.
We considered an important conversation not yet held; what our intention would be in having this conversation, how would we be showing up in the conversation, and what thinking we could do in advance to help inform us and have the best conversation possible. Some of the reflections shared in the room were deeply powerful, and one in particular stands out for me. Following the deep listening exercise, one participant described the experience as overwhelming, sharing how much she missed connecting on a truly human level at work.
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