The ingredients of a meaningful conversation start with active listening, honesty and clarity.
Meaningful Conversations in a Leadership Role
To be effective as a leader, you must communicate in a way that motivates, engages and inspires. Your success as a leader hangs off your ability to communicate well. Meaningful conversations in the workplace are what lead to the cultivation of trust, positive working relationships and results. Skillful communication is what equips both the leader and the organisation with a competitive edge. Leaders need to be authentic and transparent in their communication and hold meaningful, in depth conversations that connect people and ideas.
Here are 7 ways to have more meaningful conversations in the workplace:
1. Create an environment of trust
As a leader your role is to ensure that your team feel that their contributions are valued. Establish an open-door policy to welcome a free flow of ideas and regular conversations with your team. Interact with people as frequently as you can, encourage and provide regular feedback. Set expectations around behaviour and communicate the consequences of failing to uphold company values. Ensure that your team understand that they are expected to treat everyone with mutual respect. A company culture that thrives on trust is a culture where meaningful conversations can take place. A team who are not confident in your effectiveness as a leader won’t trust you. Leaders who come across as dishonest or insincere will fail to drive the organisation towards success.
2. Lead by example
Walk the talk! Successful leaders lead by example. They become leaders people want to follow. If leaders demonstrate questionable behaviour that could potentially be harmful to their team and the organisation, they destroy trust. Good leaders accept responsibility for their actions, they are honest and transparent and are not afraid to show vulnerability and to make mistakes. They demonstrate to others that learning from failure is a critical component of professional development. Good leaders communicate confidently and in alignment with their principles, they express passion for their work and purpose. They communicate in a way that inspires others to take action.
3. Listen, ask questions and express interest in others
Effective leaders demonstrate a genuine interest in what others have to say and listen attentively to the contributions and suggestions of others. Active listening shows we’re engaged in the conversation and ensures we don’t miss important information. Asking the right questions at the right time helps to uncover challenges and to come up with the correct solutions to those challenges. Asking questions is a vital training and development tool and helps to stave off judgement and to clarify situations.
4. Offer Praise
Offering praise is a great tactic for having meaningful conversations in the workplace. It’s crucial that leaders manage the performance of their team and acknowledge achievements, both big and small. Leaders must treat others with respect and a positive regard and they must express appreciation of the efforts of their team. Focusing too much attention on identifying errors and what is wrong can lead to a hostile working environment and reduced employee engagement.
5. Do your homework
When someone requests a meeting or time to speak with you, do your homework. Ensure that you are fully prepared for every conversation to maximise the chances of a successful outcome. Prove that you are committed to this meeting and open to taking on board the ideas that the person is going to share with you. Conduct your research, seek clarity on the objectives of the conversation and ensure you are aware of the role you are expected to play. Make a plan, list the questions you want to ask and communicate an agenda to the person beforehand so you are on common ground.
6. Be mindful of your tone
Remember the importance of establishing trust and rapport with team members particularly when working in collaboration towards the accomplishment of common goals. Reacting aggressively or without empathy and compassion will only harm the relationship and lead to negative outcomes for all. Be genuine, seek clarity, ask questions to gather more information and show that you value their ideas. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication too, such as your body language, gestures and facial expressions. Non-verbal communication can have a strong influence on the success of the conversation and can have a powerful effect on how the other person interprets your message. Ensure you are delivering clear, positive messages and don’t allow intonation or body language to throw the conversation off course. Remember to smile!
7. Offer to help
Great leaders show they care! Work collectively with the person to find the right solution and offer your assistance with bringing it to fruition. Of course, part of a leader’s role is handing over control and empowering others to grow professionally, but leaders who establish themselves as team players tend to be more credible. At the very least, offer a suggestion or referral.
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