Trust vs. Control

Erika Andersen, author of the forthcoming book Leading So People Will Follow, has written a piece on about our HBR article “Leadership Is a Conversation.” She has nice things to say about the ideas that we present in that article (and, by extension, nice things to say about Talk, Inc.). More important, she builds upon those ideas in an insightful way.

She notes, for example, that the pursuit of conversational trust (which we discuss in Chapter 1) runs counter to the pursuit of tight managerial control (a topic that we address in Chapter 7). Here’s a sampling of Andersen’s post:

[T]wo things … always seem to rear their ugly heads when a more egalitarian and collaborative approach to business is shown to be more effective: the need to control, and the lack of trust.

In order to make their own communication and the communication throughout their organizations more two-way, leaders need to be willing to cede some control to their employees. If you step down off your leader pedestal and engage with people as fellow human beings (intimacy), ask them what they think (interactivity) about important issues and decisions (intentionality) and allow them to have an impact on the outcomes (inclusion)—it means you’re no longer getting to call all the shots. Some leaders are OK with that in theory, but not in practice. …

Which brings us to the other problem: lack of trust. I’ve often seen leaders try to adopt a more open, inclusive style of communication, and then get frustrated when people didn’t immediately leap to respond. … If a leader wants to shift the style of communication in his or her organization to be more conversational, more inclusive, he or she is going to have to be both patient and truly consistent—he or she will need to demonstrate over and over that no bad things will happen to people who speak up.

In the post, Andersen also mentions that she has facilitated CEO-led meetings that incorporate exactly this kind of conversation-driven approach.


Expert Excerpt

Fast Company magazine recently published an excerpt from Talk, Inc., on its Web site. Offered as an “Expert Perspective” piece, the excerpt draws from Chapters 7 and 9 of the book. It’s titled “Want Passionate Employees? Include Them in Your Company Narrative,” and it begins thus:

Inclusion draws upon the two-way nature of real human conversation. Yet inclusive communication goes a crucial step further: FC cover.jpgIt extends the practice of back-and-forth interaction in a way that entitles people to give as well as take–to provide their own ideas, and not simply to parry the ideas offered by others. Within an organization, the practice of inclusion enables employees not just to interact with managers and colleagues, but also to serve as frontline content providers. In recent years, as that practice has taken hold at many companies, the overall structure of how organizations develop content has undergone a noticeable shift.

“Talk, Inc.,” Talk (Webinar)

Want to hear some actual talk about the ideas that we present in Talk, Inc.? Starting on Friday, June 15, you’ll be able to access a webinar titled “Talk, Inc.: How Leading CEOs Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations.” It will feature a slide series and an accompanying audio presentation by Michael Slind.


ExecSense—the world’s largest publisher of professional webinars, e-books, and related digital products—is hosting the event. It will stream live at 2:30 p.m. EDT, and it will be available for downloading afterward. (Note that ExecSense charges a fee for access to its webinar content.)

To learn more about the webinar, visit the ExecSense site (LINK).

About the Book

How can leaders make their big or growing company feel small again? How can they recapture the “magic”—the tight strategic alignment, the high level of employee engagement—that drove and animated their organization when it was a start-up? As more and more executives have discovered in recent years, the answer to that conundrum lies in the power of conversation.

In Talk, Inc., Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind show how trusted and effective leaders are adapting the principles of face-to-face conversation in order to pursue a new form of organizational conversation. They explore the promise of conversation-powered leadership—from the time-tested practice of talking straight (and listening well) to the thoughtful adoption of emerging social media.TalkInc72dpi.jpg And they offer guidance on how to balance the benefits of open-ended talk with the realities of strategic execution.

Drawing on the experience of leaders at diverse companies from around the world, Talk, Inc. offers provocative insights and user-friendly tips on how to make organizational culture more intimate, more interactive, more inclusive, and more intentional—in short, more conversational.