The 6 Coversations


Transformation occurs through choice, not mandate. This means it must be initiated through invitation. Invitation is a call to create an alternative future. The question is, ”what is the invitation we can make for people to gather in a way that they will own the relationships, tasks and process that lead to transformation?”

A powerful invitation must contain a hurdle or demand if accepted. It is a challenge to engage. It declares, “We want you to come, but if you do, here is what will be required from you.” Most leadership initiatives or training are about how we get or enroll people to do tasks and feel good about doing things they may not want to do. Change then becomes a self-inflicted wound. People need to self-enroll in order to experience their freedom of choice and commitment.

The initial leadership task is to name the debate, issue the invitation and provide the space for those who choose to show up. This recognizes that for every gathering there are those not in the room who are needed. Those who accept the first call will bring the next circle of people into the conversation.

Naming The Possibility – Begin the invitation by naming the possibility we are committed to. This becomes the context of the gathering. The more personal the better.

Composing The List – Who are the critical people to invite? The intent is to bring together people across boundaries. Who should make the invitation? People show up based on who invites and their connection with those people. The more who join to issue the invitation, the more powerful.

Framing A Choice – Refusal is perfectly acceptable. The invitation must allow room for a “no.” If “no” is not an option, then it is not an invitation. Emphasize that you value their decision NOT to attend and have faith that there are good reasons for not attending.

Specifying The Requirements – Tell them explicitly what is required of them should they choose to attend. There is a price to pay for their decision to attend. They will be asked to explore ways to deepen their learning and commitment. They will be asked to postpone problem solving and the negotiation of interests. They will not be asked to compromise their interests or constituent interests, just to hold them to the side for the time being. They will be asked to talk intimately with people they do not know and people that they have a “story” about.

The idea is that everything that has value has a price and must be purchased. Make the purchase price explicit.

Being Explicit about The Request – End the invitation by telling them that you want them to come, and if they choose not to attend, that they will be missed, but not forgotten.

The Form of the Invitation – The more personal the better. A visit is more personal than a call; a call is more personal than letter; a letter is more personal than email.


Invitation replaces mandate, policy and alignment


Possibility replaces problem solving


Ownership and Cause replace explanation, blame and denial


Dissent and Refusal replace resignation and lip service


Commitment replaces hedge and barter


Gifts replace deficiencies

The invitation offers a possibility and urges others to participate. It also warns that if they do come, something will be required of them.

Constructing the Invitation

The elements of invitation are:

  • The context and possibility of the gathering
  • Who needs to be in the room
  • Making clear that attendance is a choice
  • What hurdle is required of them should they choose to attend
  • A strong request to attend
  • Picking the form of the invitation