While I realise we are living in the digital age with communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Signal and Slack we do however have many conversations face to face throughout the day; at least I am hoping as leaders we do?
The question is, how many of these conversations excite and inspire you? How many prove to be sincere and thought–provoking? You know the type where you learnt something new about someone close to you, or maybe yourself.
Be honest, when was the last time you had a deep and meaningful conversation with a colleague? Having had a week of work travel that I know many of you will relate to (3 countries in 4 days), I am aware the majority of my conversations outside the training room have been surface, and I know I am not alone.
With daily conversations abbreviated with text and emojis, I suggest it’s time to start engaging in some real and powerful conversations.
So where could our focus be to ensure our conversations are as powerful as possible?
What Is A Powerful Conversation?
Let’s be clear; this isn’t about small talk; who won last nights big football game, the never–ending weather conversations, or what’s happening in the world of politics today. Equally, it isn’t where one person is holding centre stage espousing words of wisdom (or not) while others listen and twiddle their thumbs while they check their watch.
Powerful conversations are when two individuals:
- Enter a dialogue as equals.
- Suspend that judgemental voice in their head.
- Are willing to be open.
- Allow themselves to be vulnerable by dropping their guard.
- Discuss some hard-hitting home truths as well as share their greatest joys.
When you choose to take some of these risks, the resulting conversations can prod, nudge, even challenge you to reconsider what’s important to you, what you believe and ultimately influence your actions.
As a consequence, you may decide to make changes in your life, which lead to personal transformation and subsequently how you show up as a leader.
Step 1: Have A Purpose
I know it might sound obvious but have a purpose to get into a powerful conversation with a person. “But Julia, what happens if one of these conversations happens spontaneously?”
Good point and if a powerful conversation happens, I would suggest in this situation there are two scenarios:
- There wasn’t an obvious intention to have a more in-depth conversation; it just happened.
- You had a plan to have this type of discussion, and it happened spontaneously.
In the case of the first example, I would suggest your purpose is to leave the person with a positive experience of having had a conversation with you. They leave feeling that they have been seen and heard and have gained new insights that inspire them to want to make changes or further explore making them.
In the second scenario, if you know you want to have a conversation with one of your team, be clear about what it is you want to discuss and what your outcome is. When you have this clarity, it doesn’t always matter when it happens, sometimes an opportunity arises, and it’s good to make the most of the opportunity.
Step 2: Build Rapport And Trust
It will be far easier to move from a surface conversation to a deeper one when you enjoy good rapport and your colleague or team member trusts you. A few easy questions to ask to help you build both rapport and trust is:
How are you? and How’s things?
The first is directed personally, and the second gives the person a choice on how they answer, the content and the depth!
Step 3: Be Curious And Great At Asking Questions
Experience has taught me that the most significant difference between surface and deep, powerful conversations is curiosity and an ability to ask great questions which:
- Are thought provoking.
- Allow a person to gain insight about a situation, another person or themselves.
- Empower people to be accountable for their results.
Who hasn’t had to have a conversation with a team member about what’s impacting their performance and motivation?
For some leaders, it’s easy to slip into tell mode about how you dealt with a similar situation earlier in your career. My point here is, if you know you have a ‘tell’ style, it’s critical to manage this and step into questioning mode.
In this scenario, think about using questions such as:
- What is important to you about your job.
- What is important to you about your career.
- What is important to you about being successful?
- What will that mean for you?
- What will being successful get for you?
- How will you know you have achieved your career goals?
Moreover, sometimes a simple, ‘what do you want?’ is a starting point too.
Step 4: Listen
Remember a time when you are having a conversation about holidays for example. A friend has just returned from the week-long break and you ask how it was.
Your friend begins to share a story of a place they visited and how it was amazing. Then there’s a pause and before they have the chance to share more of their holiday stories, you jump in with:
‘Oh I can’t wait until next month, we are off to Italy…and suddenly you have turned the conversation to you in minutes. Sound familiar?’ I know I am guilty of it.
Too often, we find silence uncomfortable. Challenge yourself and practice your ease with silence.
When we stay silent it encourages the other person to continue to talk freely without fear of interruptions, while communicating that you value what the other person has to say too.
Here’s a test for you. See how long you can stay silent and listen next time you want to enter into a powerful conversation. You will be stunned how the other person will continue to talk and open up. Imagine what you will discover that can enrich the relationship and consequently, the discussion you are having.
Here at Zestfor, we now offer a unique programme called Powerful Conversations. If you would like to find out more, then send a quick email here.
Until next time,
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