Hello Leader,

In this KEY we explore the currency we use at work. Discover how to use this currency to increase your influence and find greater joy and meaning at work.

Listen to our Podcast here. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

What You Do At Work

"What do you do at work?" I asked the leadership team at the beginning of our strategy workshop. This executive team is responsible for an organization of 14,000 people, and representatives came to the workshop from six countries on all continents.

At first, they looked surprised, as if saying: "What do you mean, What do we do at work?" Of course, we do our job.

I am used to getting strange looks when I ask a question that sounds pedestrian and obvious. So I said again: "Please, tell me what you do at work." Here are some of their answers:

  • We develop our strategy and execute on it
  • We help the business win
  • We learn about the needs of our business partners and develop solutions to address their needs.
  • We fulfill the demands of our customers
  • We develop our people
  • We respond to crises and fix problems

The list went on. I replied to each answer by saying it was great but I was looking for a different, more comprehensive answer. Finally, one of the executives said the unifying element of all these things is communication. Every aspect of our work involves communicating internally in our organization and with other groups externally. What we do, she said, was communicate with internal and external partners. Everything we do at work begins with communication and ends with communication.

"That's exactly right," I replied. This is the answer I was looking for. But I was also looking for another word in addition to communication. The word is conversation. The answer to what we do at work is: we create conversations. You create and connect conversations that need connecting. That is what you do at work.

It is easy to miss the power of this realization, so I immediately asked: "What is different if we realize that conversation is the essence of work? How is this construct helpful? How are we better off when we remind each other that we come to work to create conversations?"

The executives offered a range of responses we summarized into three:

First, by recognizing the essence of work is creating conversations, we imply and draw attention to the anatomy of conversation, which is a two-way traffic dynamic. In an effective conversation, the communication loop gets completed. It means we pay attention to the inquiry and the response, and will not allow the loop to be broken; we will make sure to close the conversation loop.

Second, by embracing conversation as the currency of work, we can learn to evaluate ourselves through a new lens. How clear and effective are the conversations we create? What results do our conversations deliver? Effective conversations increase the velocity of movement from inquiry to resolution; they deliver results that satisfy their intent.

Third, by realizing that what we do at work is create and shape conversations, we quickly recognize that creating a new future for the organization must begin with creating new conversations. No new conversation, no new future. If all we do is repeat the same old conversation, we will by definition end up where we are now.

To discover and unlock new possibilities and a new future, we must first ask new questions that will open and create new conversations. The future emerges and is revealed through conversation. And as we discovered in an earlier KEY, the messiah is a conversation.

Much has been said and written about Marissa Mayer's decision to bring Yahoo's workforce back to the office. She is trying to intensify the velocity of conversations in order to build serendipity and increase innovation. Her emphasis is innovation.

Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. Create new conversations that open new future possibilities for you and your team.

© Aviv Shahar