*Confession: This book review is part of a book report that I turned in to finish the semester, so sorry if some of it seems a little dry/academic.
Leadership and the Art of Conversation, written by Kim Krisco, is a book based on the idea that the best leaders are those that use conversation in order to get people around them to buy in to creating a new future. Krisco asserts that people can improve their conversational skills by being aware of distinctions for conversation types and speech acts. Primarily, individuals need to recognize whether conversations are about the past, present, or future. Krisco provides trigger words and sample conversations in order to identify the realm of the conversation. Action is created by future realm conversations while action is maintained by present realm conversations. Past realm conversations will only create incremental improvement at best and will cause regression at worst. Krisco argues that leaders should shift conversations away from opinions, assessments, and interpretations, and shift toward declarations and opportunities for new possibilities.
Past realm conversations, or “the realm of history”, are conversations discussing what has already happened. Past realm conversations use subjective statements and are based on the way things “are”. Opinions, assessments, interpretations, deductions, assertions, evaluations, analyses, judgments, and appraisals all consist of a combination of fact and opinion. These speech types may have some usefulness but they will also have potential for trouble. Past realm conversations can only create incremental change, such as an improvement of 10-15%. If you are looking for greater improvement, you need to change the conversation to the future realm.
Future realm conversations, “the realm of possibility”, are conversations that introduce or declare a new possibility. The speech act associated with the future is the declaration. Declarations create new possibilities. Once a new possibility has been created by the declaration, it has to be maintained by present realm conversations.
Present realm conversations, “the realm of action”, are conversations that generate action, even if the action hasn’t quite happened yet. Speech types include requests and promises. Krisco says that in order to frame a successful request, you must give the following information: exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, and exactly whom you want it from. Imprecise requests will often not generate results. Once a proper request has been given, there are only four acceptable responses: accept, decline, counteroffer, or promise to apply later. If you are given any other response, it is unlikely that the action you want will happen. A promise is similar to a request, except that it puts the one who makes it in action. Like requests, you should give the exact details: exactly what, exactly when, and exactly who (which would be you).
When leaders are able to recognize the speech type and realm of conversation, then they can influence the conversation in a direction that will create more action and results. Krisco’s main argument is that leaders become more effective and create more action through more effective conversations, which can only be achieved by switching from the past realm to the future realm, and ultimately maintained by the present realm. Although not directly related to coaching or basketball, I think this book is very applicable and could provide a lot of assistance to our field. Personally, I was really oblivious to all these intricacies of conversation until I read this book. I feel that having read this book, I am in a better position to understand and influence conversations. I would highly recommend it to anyone in coaching, or any leadership role.