It never ceases to amaze me in the work that I do with leaders and teams that a single conversation can have such different impact on its participants. Here’s an example. When I coach multiple people on the same team, I often hear about the same conversation, but from completely different perspectives. What’s more, it quickly becomes apparent to me that person “A” will say something with the best intentions, but person “B” receives it very negatively. How does this happen? Even to the extent that leaders and teams become locked in mistrust and fear? We rarely go a day in our lives without having a conversation, which technically, is an exchange of thoughts, ideas and feelings between two beings. Merriam Webster defines a conversation as “an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people” and an”oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” I believe that it is easy to forget that job-conversations are about an exchange of ideas, especially when there is a lot at stake. Our job is our income, our income is our stability, our stability is our identity, and our identity is our unique approach to life. When something goes wrong somewhere in this sequence, it usually starts with one misunderstood conversation. 3 Steps for Effective Conversations
There are three steps to creating positive, intentional, and impactful conversations. Step #1 – Understand Their Perspective Don’t assume that you know what someone will bring to the conversation. Ask about their perspective. Listen intently. Follow their line of thinking and reasoning as they are exchanging ideas with you. Look for their strengths, values, knowledge, skills, and intentions, not just the facts or opinions. Look for what’s right about their ideas, not what’s wrong. Step #2 – Figure Out Your Filter The second step is to figure out your filter. When entering a conversation with other people, we bring our own thoughts and ideas based on a plethora of experiences in our lives. We filter information based on our own strengths, values, knowledge, skills, and intentions. The trick is to be aware of what you are telling yourself about the conversation while it is happening. Be cognizant of their filters and be careful of yours. Step #3 – Be Intentional About Your Impact
Having a productive conversation means being a good listener and a good observer. Before responding, or giving advice, or telling the other person what to do, stop and take a step back. Before launching into assumptions about the person or the outcome of the conversation, here are some questions to ask that will help to create clarity before you respond.
What’s really going on right now?
What are you excited about?
What are you most concerned about?
Who is most affected by the situation?
How does this problem affect our vision, mission, and goals?
What is the impact to the service of our customers?
What have you tried already?
What are other ways to look at this?
How can we make this work better?
What will you do next?
Empower the other person in the conversation so that the outcome is one that is both positive and productive. Bottom line – each of us bring strengths, values, knowledge, skills, and intentions to our conversations. We create impact. Make sure it is the impact that you intend. I would love to hear about your successful conversation.