Boy oh boy, how did the simple interaction of conversations between leaders and the people they lead get so complicated?
Coaching conversations, performance conversations, mid-year reviews, one-to-ones, feedback – each one with different paperwork to complete and different models to follow.
Are these interactions communication, conversation or dialogue? And what's the difference anyway? No wonder leaders want to busy themselves with tasks and hope the people stuff just goes away!
So, let's make this easier.
Forget about all the different names that we give to conversations because – at heart – they are all one and the same. Over the next few blog posts, I'll be sharing with harassed leaders ways to simplify the whole area of talking to the people you lead.
1. Every conversation is a performance conversation
First thing's first. As a leader, the primary purpose of every conversation you have is to drive up performance. Whether with a team or an individual, whether formal or informal, whether talking about work or what someone did at the weekend – these conversations, if handled well, will drive up performance. If handled badly, they will have the opposite effect. So, in effect, every conversation is a performance conversation.
2. Skill, will and resources
For people to improve their performance, they need three things. Every conversation you have will, at its heart, be about one or all of these. These three things are:
- The skill to do the job
- The will to do the job
- The resources to do the job
Take away any one of these elements and performance will be below par. Have all three in place, and performance will rocket.
3. Conversations should be purposeful and open, with agreed outcomes
Every conversation you have should have a clear purpose, openness to different perspectives and an agreed way forward at the end.
4. There are only two ways to begin
One-to-one business conversations can begin in only one of two ways – the leader starts them, or the direct report starts them. Whoever starts the conversation is the person who should clarify the purpose of the conversation.
5. Good communication practices apply to all conversations
All of the above apply to every conversation you have as a leader – whether that's a quick water-cooler chat or an in-depth feedback session.
In my next blog, we'll look at two tried and tested ways to start any conversation – whatever its purpose – depending on whether you commence it or it is started by the other(s) involved. This is designed to make all your conversations easier so that you can focus on having rich, meaningful interactions rather than worrying about what kind of conversation you are having.
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