Time Machine Conversations

Time Machine Conversations

In the movie Superman (1978 – starring Christopher Reeve) Superman travels back in time to save Lois Lane from an earthquake. Wouldn’t it be great if we could travel back in time – and save our conversations?
I run leadership development programs and workshops for executives and senior managers.
We talk about soft skills – the stuff they didn’t teach us in school.
I ask the following questions to participants at the beginning of programs:

  • If time travel was possible, and you could go back to a conversation you had in your past – and have another shot at it…how many of you have multiple conversations from your personal life (with your spouse, children, parents, friends, etc.) you would desperately want to go back to? MOST OF THE HANDS GO UP!
  • How many of you have multiple conversations in a work setting (boss, clients, direct reports, peers)? MOST OF THE HANDS GO UP!
  • How many of you are thinking of conversations from years ago – or even one from yesterday? MOST OF THE HANDS GO UP!

I know I am guilty as charged. (I personally would need a spreadsheet with several tabs to list all of the conversations I need to revisit…the first couple of stops on my time travel journey – my son and my wife!)
This line of questioning was inspired by Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
First published in 1936(!) he opens the book with a chapter called How This Book was Written – and Why.

“…I realized that as sorely as these adults needed training
in effective speaking, they needed more training in the fine art of
getting along with people in everyday business and social contacts.

I also gradually realized that I was sorely in need
of such training myself.

As I look back across the years, I am appalled at my own
frequent lack of finesse and understanding.

How I wish a book such as this had been placed
in my hands twenty years ago!”

So, I have good news and bad news:
Bad News first – pretty sure time travel isn’t possible – yet – (but thanks to Superman, Back to the Future, and Terminator movie franchises for giving us a glimpse!)
Good News – we can make sure – starting now – that we don’t keep adding to our “Time Machine Conversations” list!
We can focus – right now – on one conversation at a time. Challenge yourself to dig deep and really focus on making the next conversation you have worthy of Dale Carnegie’s praise!
This is a tall order – but I encourage you to start now and start small. You don’t need to boil the ocean and try to change many things at once – small, consistent steps are key.
In these posts- we will explore the steps, the principles, and the maxims for human connection via conversations.
Which brings me to another great quote:

“People need to be reminded more than we need to be instructed.” Samuel Johnson

I ask the Leaders in the programs to come up with their own reminders for their own next steps distilled in the form of:

  • Billboards,
  • T-Shirts,
  • or, Hashtags

My T-Shirt (that I need to wear every day!) would say this – in really BIG FONT!


Slowing Down is a great first step. If you slow down before, during, and even after your conversation – this one act lays a strong foundation for all the other steps to follow.

  • Slow down to be present.
  • Slow down to make eye contact.
  • Slow down to remember and use their name.
  • Slow down to imagine what the world is like right now for the other person.
  • Slow down to listen – listen like if listening were a martial art – you would be a black belt.

Find a way to remind yourself to slow down.
We can’t save Lois, but we can save our next conversation!
More to come…

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On today’s episode, we look at Part 2 of the current business landscape for L&D, what are the trends that are driving change, and what are the implications on Learning within organizations.