Robust dialogue has been defined as “the ability to address any issue in the team or organization as long as there are no hidden agendas or personal attacks” (T. J. Addington). Dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communications.

Do Chief Executives normally have hidden agendas?

While this question stirs up debate, the answer may not be a simple yes or no. What is often clear is that CEOs have interest in certain issues more than others based on their individual perceptions and priorities.

What should a CEO do when they have interest and are passionate about their priorities?

They should push it to the domain of team members and subject it to their scrutiny and buy-in.  Unfortunately, this is usually not the practice as most CEOs believe in “command and control” style of leadership. These are leaders who feel threatened whenever anything negative is being said about their initiatives and do not feel sufficiently secured to subject their ideas to strong discuss. These CEOs obviously have hidden or private agendas which they prefer to keep to their chest.

The discipline of robust dialogue promotes a culture of strong dialogue on any issue in an organization with the aim of finding realistic solutions and resolving protracting concerns. This is because dialogue is the main ingredient that drives the unit of work. Dialogue should be holistic and not fragmented, open, candid, informal and free from politics and games.

Many team members under the belief of not “rocking the boat” or fear of not “supporting executive initiatives” prefer to go along with discourses by stating and re-stating what the CEO prefers to hear or their preferences. This is a total exhibition of classic deceit, as this stifles creativity, demonstrate yes-man ship and a clear denial of reality. Executives must realize that dialogue is the core of execution culture and it must not be stifled

Execution leaders must imbibe and promote the habit of “truth over harmony” to provoke constructive criticism, new ideas, candid expression of opinions and new possibilities in place of formal discourse and conversation. Robust dialogue help team members to openly express and test their thinking in front of their colleagues and superiors.

No matter how intense the process of robust dialogue becomes, the leader must come out with the following

  1. The take aways which are issues or initiatives where general consensus has been built.
  2. The plan to execute these initiatives.
  3. Assignment of responsibilities to team members.
  4. Identification of the initiatives which require further rework.
  5. The date, venue and time for a business review or meetings to further discuss the issues, consensual action plan and evaluation strategies to enhance transformation of aspirations to reality


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