Most people like to talk a lot at their workplace. Since a significant part of their life is spent at the office, the engagement with fellow co-workers, managers and other team members happens around life, career, personal issues, socio-political discussions etc. However, most of this time ends up in idle chatter and not as conversations that can advance your goals.
No matter whether you are in the elevator, having lunch, out for a smoke break, or sitting down for a formal tete-a-tete, you need to make sure that your conversations should lean towards driving your career objectives. For instance, even if you are making casual talk, you should be putting subtle signals into your listener that will make them positively biased towards you e.g. mentioning a certain project that you did in record time because you put in extra hours at office that others might not be aware of.
The point is – you need to be always prepared for the conversation you could have at your workplace with different people. This is an oft-ignored but highly beneficial practice that will provide you both short-term and long-term gains.
So what is the secret recipe to creating more powerful conversations at the workplace?
There are 3 main ingredients, both for the employer and employee of an organisation:
Process:Does the conversational process deliver empowerment at the front line? Does it enable greater agility? Does it provide for rapid feedback when problems need solving higher up? Is it carried out systematically and consistently throughout your company?
Most companies have a top-down team briefing process where information passes from the senior leadership to the front-line staff. This is in addition to internal communication channels like e-mails, newsletters or videos. Now, there are several pitfalls to this process:
> Different interpretations by employees
> Deemed irrelevant by workers
> Lack of personal connection with the higher-ups
As a result, the employees are not aligned to the corporate goals and lack trust in the senior leadership.
The process needs to be speedy, relevant, have a clear interpretation and be empowering. For this, the barriers that prevent implementation should be fed back up the line as quickly as possible. At each level of higher management, decisions should be taken to enable action and fed back down rapidly. This will ultimately correct false assumptions and truly empower your organisation.
Themes:When you get together with your colleagues, are you focused on the right issues? How are the conversations framed and do they steer in the right direction with the correct, actionable triggers?
Powerful conversation revolve around the following themes:
> Informing: Be clear about the intent of the conversation. Understand what you want to convey.
> Aligning: Make sure your strategic priorities are aligned with the overall objectives of your team and the company.
> Solving: Brainstorm with your colleagues to find solutions to different problems.
> Implementing: Discuss what tasks you are doing and whether they are meeting the set performance criteria?
> Improving: Discuss deadlines, quality and customer feedback.
When you sit down with your colleagues, managers or perhaps executives, do you have the right skills to hold quality conversations? Do you have what it needs to get people to talk?
To encourage powerful conversations, you need to exhibit the skills of appreciative enquiry i.e. appreciate and welcome all views and ideas and being genuinely inquisitive and interested. If you send negative signals or keep pulling rank, you will just encourage people to shut up.
Here is what you need to do:
- Encourage involvement
- Listen well, interpret what people are saying.
- Encourage people to talk and interact.
- Encourage people to imagine new possibilities and generate positive ideas.