Productive conversations are precious for various reasons: they allow leaders to learn, get inspired, gain perspective, find common goals, and advance. The people in your sphere of influence may be willing to share information that could be extremely valuable to you, and they’re a great way to get to know your team quickly.
But to achieve these results, you will need to make sure that the conversation is engaging and powerful.
Most leaders have bad experiences with productive conversations – so why would they want to practice with you? For this reason, you need to approach conversations with energy, a focused message, and a readiness to hear feedback.
As a new leader, you have a great opportunity to demonstrate what an inspiring leader you are.
Having been a leader myself, I’ve observed the following tips and strategies for creating a successful performance conversation.
Try to avoid too much of a heavy-handed message – and why not?
When a leader makes an important point and does not listen, they may start looking for other answers. Leaders need to be careful not to use language that lacks clarity or engagement.
Avoid phrases like, “You are not going to like this,” “Nobody likes this,” “This is a bad idea,” “Nobody will do this,” etc.
There are a lot of powerful words that result in negativity.
Don’t focus too much on what’s wrong.
Instead, take a neutral stance on the situation. For example, if you’re discussing the merits of making a major company expense, rather than stating that the decision is not worth it, you might say, “It is a discussion worth having.”
This conveys that you’re looking at the situation without any strong opinions or judgments.
Authenticity is important for people to connect with you. For example, if you are asked for a client’s recommendation, you should share how a given situation made you think of the client.
If you are asked for a recommendation for a colleague, you could say, “I remember when we were in that situation, I remember how we reacted, and I have been impressed with what they’ve done since then.”
Use the words “I” and “me” instead of “we”
To be an effective leader, you have to be clear about your position. And it’s OK for a leader to stand up for her or his self-interest.
When leaders use the words “we,” it makes it easier for the people in their sphere of influence to feel that the person speaking is one of them.
Don’t be a jerk
In a situation where a leader is not on the same side as a peer, the correct response is for the leader to say something like, “That’s an interesting point.”
This type of comment would be impossible to disagree with because it acknowledges the point.
When a leader cannot say something similar, it’s because they disagree with the point.
Keep it short
A leader should try to keep a conversation around 15 minutes.
If you are not an engaging, likable person, your tone will give off the wrong impression. If you are a leader in an environment where everyone is testing each other, consider your behavior carefully.
If you’re expressing yourself shortly and tightly, you’re sending the wrong message.
Communicate with open eyes
You’re trying to lead people who are often filled with uncertainty. It’s effortless to lead people who are on the same page.
Ask permission before you speak.
It may seem simple, but it’s not always easy for a leader to ask others for permission before speaking their mind.
The request shows that you are willing to take responsibility for how your words will affect others.
People who stand before their team and speak fast often end up rambling, making a big point, and moving on. Rather than saying, “Everybody shut up for a second,” it’s better to ask for a second.
But still, be aware that you want your message to be clear and concise.
One of the most challenging aspects of managing people is effective communication. As most of us know, effective communication is tough and complicated, and it’s tough to say anything beneficial.
The best solution is to focus on the act of making conversation that demonstrates respect and mutual understanding, and if that doesn’t work, to follow it up with your next best strategy. This is called building good, real-world relationships with your employees.
Depending on how formal your company culture is, it may be appropriate to break the ice by saying something like, “let’s start by letting me know a little about your day today.”
Being a leader is a marathon, not a sprint. And to be successful, you need to continue to learn and grow.
When you find yourself in a scenario that calls for leadership, try your best not to let your experience dictate how you approach the situation.
Leaders are successful when they understand that it’s important to continue learning and challenging their assumptions.