Archive for the 'Conversations That Matter' Category

Conversation, Leadership, and My New Book: Read the Full Interview at The Huffington Post

Good ideas ought to be shared. And if it is a good idea, it will travel far and fast. For that reason I have recently begun to take interviews with individuals who have inquired about transformative leadership strategies, and the interviews are beginning to trickle out now. You may have seen an article last week in Forbes in which I shared my thoughts on conversation frameworks, talked about my new book Create New Futures, and more. This week, I am pleased to share my interview with Nick Hastreiter, which has been published at the Huffington Post. There will be more interviews and articles being published in the coming months that will highlight my thoughts on a variety of issues, but I hope you will take a moment to read my deep dive on the art of conversation and how leaders should apply it to guide their organizations to achieve breakthrough results:

© Aviv Shahar

My FORBES interview on leadership, conversation, and dynamic companies

Many of you know that I have invested a lot of time and thought into my recent book, Create New Futures: How Leaders Produce Breakthroughs and Transform the World Through Conversation. This book distills many of my hard won lessons in leadership, business, and relationships into what I hope is an engaging read.

While I have not seen the need for a much hyped book tour (I jest, of course), I did send the book to a few media outlets for their review, and I am pleased with the write up this work received in FORBES this week. If you care to learn a little more about it, you can find the article at this link:

© Aviv Shahar

Great Coaching Is Asking Great Questions

“Great coaching is asking great questions,” I said to Carol. Carol did not hesitate but immediately replied with a good question: “How do you learn to ask good questions?”

Here is my reply to Carol:

1. Get interested. Really interested.
2. Write down the questions. Don’t just hold them in your thoughts; frame them in writing.
3. Start a little book of questions, to capture and catalogue questions as they happen.
4. Become fascinated by how things work and by finding ways to improve the situations around you, focus on seeing how things work rather than ‘being right’, or having readymade answers.
5. Move from ‘How’ to ‘What’ and ‘Why’ questions.
6. Practice looking at an object, or a word, and asking five questions about it.
7. Look at the people around you – replace and reframe opinions and ‘likes and dislikes’ to questions. Let yourself wonder what moves them; why they do what they do.
8. Next time someone says something and you immediately are tempted to just respond with your view, ask instead: ‘what makes you think like this?’; ‘what makes you feel like this?’
9. Listen to what you say and ask: ‘why did I say this?’ Practice asking questions instead of making points.
10. Write down 100 questions. You can create the questions in categories. Here are a few to get you going in the practice of asking questions. After you practice asking questions for a while, you will discover some great questions can lead to great coaching.

A. Self-awareness questions:
– What energizes you? What gets you going?
– What are the three biggest stressors in your life?

B. Questions about hopes and aspirations
– If you knew you could not fail, what would you begin to do today?

C. Questions about money:
– What are your basic beliefs about money?
– How are these beliefs shaping your relationship with money?

D. Questions about relationships:
– What are the most important things you are looking for in relationships?
– What does the map of your social network look like (are there a few major patterns)?

E. Questions about the future
F. Questions about achieving results
G. Questions about fears and worries
H. Questions about personal development and growth
I. Questions about leadership
J. Questions about health and well being
K. Questions about the learning process
L. Questions about great people and leaders in history
M. Questions about happiness and joy
N. Questions about habits and about psychology
O. Questions about how the economy works
P. Question about innovation
Q. Questions about trust and influencing
R. Questions about success and failure
S. Questions about coaching and mentoring
T. Questions about process engineering
U. Questions about purpose
V. Questions about destiny
W. Questions about resolving conflicts
X. Questions about human virtues
Y. Questions about forgiveness
Z. Questions about current world affairs

© Aviv Shahar

Share Your Blessings

I was sitting at the best table in the restaurant on the 39th floor. Something special had happened at this week’s seminar and I decided to relax and celebrate the free evening before getting back home in the morning. For five days we had worked hard with a group of 12 executives. They all have had a great experience in this seminar. Each executive had identified their strengths, gained new perspectives and worked on aligning short and long term goals. Each of them articulated their core values and purpose and envisioned the roadmap ahead. Each person had their breakthrough moment, which made the week’s work a profound experience. Now the seminar was over and it was my time to treat myself. I decided to enjoy a special dinner and reserved the nicest table available with a view of the city. The sunsets in San Francisco can be very beautiful and this one matched my contemplative mood. David presented himself as I settled at my table: “I’ll be your waiter tonight, what can I get you started with?” He was bright and there was a happy melodic tone in his voice. I replied: “It’s a special evening, how about your favorite glass of red wine?”

Soon he was back with the wine. We selected the finest dish on the menu and started talking. He asked about the occasion and I explained about the nature of the work we had just completed. It feels good to know you have done your best. It feels great to know that your best has made a difference; that the work was impactful for people’s lives and that for a few days we were able to take a broader strategic view. These tough 24/7 pedal-to-the-metal executives allowed themselves to enter a conversation about purpose. We were able to push back pressures and find the sweet spot, where the personal and the professional are not in contradiction, where the various roles we enact are expressions of a central principle in our lives. The beauty of this process is when people discover it for themselves. Then you know something profound had happened.

It turned out David was a bit of a philosopher or at least he had done a lot of thinking about many things. As the evening progressed he would stop by and our conversation would evolve to the next topic. I watched him work his tables. He had a spring in his walk as he approached each table with great sensitivity and attunement.
“David”, I asked, as he brought the desert menu, “why are you working here? You clearly have a lot going on in you. What is your real passion?” David smiled and said. “I am a poet. In the morning I get up and write poems. That is where my passion is but it doesn’t pay the bills. So I figured I needed to have a money-making job to support what I love to do. Working here during the evening shift is a great way to pay the bills. I meet interesting people and I try to make them feel special. It’s a bit like writing a poem. Some nights I get to meet families on their special happy occasions; other nights I see a successful businessman who has everything and is sad and lonely. I try to fit my style and approach to rhyme with the person at the table I serve. Every person deserves to have a good dinner. Plus, it stimulates my creativity and gives me ideas for my poems.”

He was back with a rich chocolate cake. Looking at the bill it came to $68. Not bad for treating myself I thought. But there was one thing I felt would make it even better. I doubled it and left $136 on the table and wrote a little card for David. “This is for your poems. Keep up the good work. Blessings…”

© Aviv Shahar

Conversations That Matter: Thanksgiving Message

This was originally published for my 2004 Thanksgiving Message.

Let me share a thanksgiving story with you. Last week I visited the Leadership Class of Woodinville High School. My son Edan participates in the class and his teacher, Mr. Vixie, invited me to conduct a self-leadership workshop with this group of young leaders.
Ecology is always important, so I came early to arrange the chairs in a circle and make the classroom as conducive as possible to our meeting. They walked in one after the other and soon we were ready to begin. “I am not here to teach you, I came here to have a conversation with you,” I began as I addressed these 30 bright young men and women.
“When I was in my senior year, 28 years ago (1976), I felt vibrantly alive. Looking around then I felt scared because of what I saw in the adults around me. I did not want to end up like them. It seemed as if something in them got shut down or dimmed. I felt like that because the really important stuff was not talked about. The big questions, about meaning and inner struggles and transitions of life, were not discussed.
“‘But they must have all felt the same when they were 17 and 18,’ I thought, ‘It means they forgot.’ So I made a vow to myself to not forget and to remember to remember. And because I remember I am here today to invite you into a conversation that matters.” Now I knew that I got their attention, because they were looking at me with big eyes and with suspended quietness.
I was holding a sycamore stick in my hand and I said: “This stick has magic power. When you hold this stick, imagine it can give you the power to change one thing in this world. Take a few moments to think what would you choose if you had the power of this stick and could change one thing in this world?”
For a few moments they quietly wrote their answers. For the next two hours the stick had moved from one hand to another. Each young person said, “I have the power of the stick and the one thing I would change in this world is….” They spoke of their visions, concerns and dreams, and I inquired deeper: “What do you mean when you say that? Why is this change important for you? What do you think will have to change first in order to allow the change you want?” And so on. We all listened intently. As we did, I understood that we were fulfilling a request expressed by a young man named Dalton.
Let me explain. Earlier that year a few of my son’s friends came for a visit. We were sitting in a circle in the living room. A similar question had been posed: “If you could change one thing in this world, what would that be?” When Dalton spoke, he said: “The one thing I would change in our world is that I would make there to be a better understanding between the generations. I would make real conversations that matter, when we really listen to each other.”
“It is such a waste,” he said. “My grandfather must have had so much experience and understanding about life and relationships and about what is important, and my parents, too, but we have never talked about it. I want to know from them more about how they really think and what they really feel, but we don’t have such conversations. Mostly we talk about what I should or shouldn’t do.”
His voice was breaking a bit and his candid courage stirred something in the room. He then added, “It doesn’t make sense. Every generation starts almost from the same point. Yes, technology is different. But in the really important things, like relationships, love, living and other important questions of life, experience is not transferred. We don’t seem to learn and every generation seems to repeat the same mistakes.”
We all knew something very real just happened because the atmosphere was tender and electrifying. It was clear Dalton was expressing a bigger cry. His request for change could not be answered or pacified on the spot. It was a message to take home and to reflect on. He was asking us to imagine with him how different our world could be when we start to have conversations that matter with each other; when we have conversations that matter with our children and grandchildren.
Dalton helped me to remember my own vow to never forget. If Dalton’s message touches you as it touched me, you might have an opportunity during this Thanksgiving holiday to have a conversation that matters with someone. That someone may be your son or daughter or someone else. What Dalton was saying is that your experience – what you have learned in your life – is important and meaningful. His message was that when the moment is right, you have an obligation to share what you have learned through your journey, so your precious experience is not wasted, and we can all be a bit better by learning from you, from each other.
I have discovered that when I listen carefully and intently to another person I learn so much. And then, after I have listened intently and purposefully, I often find in the other person a true interest to listen and hear from me. Dalton’s message was that one of the most special ways we can give thanks is by listening to each other and by appreciating and sharing with others what we learned. Through learning and appreciating we offer thanks together to all that supports and nourishes us.
I wish you a special and replenishing holiday.

© Aviv Shahar

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