In the world of human endeavor, everything that happens between people happens as a result of a conversation. The conversation we have with ourselves and the conversation we have with others. The conversation we have with ourselves directly impacts the quality, breadth, and depth of the conversation we have with others.

Enrollment Is a Conversational Skill

Enrollment is a key conversational skill used by leaders to bring forth new possibilities. In the enrollment conversation, leaders generate an invitation that, when accepted freely, creates an authentic commitment to bring their strategic vision and corporate growth strategies into reality. Enrollment is a key team building skill to produce alignment and commitment throughout the team. Without enrollment, leaders can only strive for compliance in the best case; in the worst case, they get malicious compliance.

What does it mean to enroll someone?

To enroll means to sign-on; to sign-on willingly and freely as a fully committed member of the team. Enrollment then is the action of enrolling or the state of being enrolled.

Enrollment springs forth from an authentic conversation that opens a compelling possibility for the listener such that they enroll in the possibility and mobilize themselves and others to take the necessary actions to bring that possibility into existence.

The Enrollment Conversation Is a Key Leadership Skill.

Leaders have to be skilled in several conversations to master the enrollment process. True enrollment is a pure invitation. As an invitation, someone can say no without consequence. This is one of the most difficult parts of the enrollment process. The enrollment conversation can never be coercive or manipulative. If it is, the best you get is compliance.

The conversational steps are:

Enrollment starts with getting connected and creating relationship and trust. Nothing happens in the enrollment process if there is insufficient relationship or trust. Getting into relationship and building trust has to precede the content since it creates the space for generous listening.

This has to be an Authentic Conversation that explores openly and authentically the concerns and commitments of everyone in the conversation. New possibilities never occur within a vacuum. They always occur within an already existing set of concerns and commitments. They occur within an existing mindset of what is working and not working and what works and doesn’t work. Possibilities usually show up as an interruption and disturbance to the status quo.

The enrollment conversation has to consider the already existing context you are speaking into. During this conversation, you have to build relationship and trust by listening deeply to how they see their world and their role in the world they see. During this part of the enrollment conversation, you are discerning how it is for them. For example, you want to deeply understand:

  • How are they listening to the possibility?
  • What is their mood as a result of the conversation?
  • What is their mindset, their rules of engagement?
  • How are they relating to the conversations? Do they see the power of the possibility, or are they only seeing the work evolved? Remember, what may seem a great possibility to you, may appear to them as “rocking their boat.”

After you build sufficient relationship and trust, you can open the conversation that exposes and explores the possibility as a vision of what can be done. The power of this conversation is in building a big context. A context that goes beyond the project itself and looks at bringing forth a compelling future for the company not just for the departments.

A logical place to start is with the current situation and its implications. What is happening now, what will likely happen without bringing forth this possibility and what will likely happen when this possibility is brought into existence? The sole purpose of this conversation is to enable the other person or persons to clearly see what is possible, and that the compelling nature of the possibility calls for action to be taken now. Real possibility pulls for its fulfillment. This is not about pushing the possibility.

To be a possibility in the mind of the listener, they have to see what is in it for them and that the possibility is feasible. The listener has to see that there is a real opportunity for them, and that they can help bring the possibility into existence. In this conversation, a strategic approach is defined and a process for fulfillment is co-created consistent with the execution strategy. The process for fulfillment shows the high level steps/actions necessary to move the possibility from an idea into an actuality. It is important that everyone can see, on paper, how the possibility can be realized.

During this step, the hard work of detailing the process for fulfillment is performed. In essence, this is the detailed project plan which defines who is going to do what by when. This is accomplished through conversations for action. A critical part of this process is to look for potential breakdowns (risks) and determine how these breakdowns (risks) will be handled. For larger projects, this step is facilitated with formal project planning methodologies and tools.

The last, but very important step is to ensure that everyone is satisfied with the process and the results of the enrollment conversation. This is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the possibility and state any final concerns. Everyone should have the opportunity to declare potential breakdowns that were not declared earlier. Ultimately, everyone should be asked to declare their full and freely given commitment to the goals of the project. If they cannot make that declaration, then the enrollment conversation has to continue until their concerns are resolved.