Productive conversations are essential for all leaders. They require two-way discussions focused on goals, where all individuals participate and determine next steps. Conversation topics can range from solving problems, resolving conflict, giving constructive feedback, to rewarding positive performance and retaining talent.
While the definition of a productive conversation may sound simple, the reality is that it takes effort, planning and awareness. So what do you do when a productive conversation goes wrong?
1. Listen for understanding, not to respond.
For many of us, this is really hard to do. Listening for understanding requires us to be present in the moment with the other person. Many times, we only hear a small part of the conversation because we are formulating our reply or rebuttal to what was just shared. When the conversation starts to shift, give yourself permission to pause, think, and breathe before responding. We need to focus on hearing what the other person is sharing to understand their point of view.
2. Preserve the self-confidence of others.
Be aware of your word choices, tone of voice, and body language. While you may think that your words were fair and valid, your tone of voice and body language may have changed the meaning of your words. The goal is to have a productive conversation, which means that together you get to the common goal. Diminishing the self-confidence of others through mean-spirited comments, judgement in tone of voice, or closed body language makes it difficult for you and the individual. If you listen for understanding, you can respond in a way that preserves the self-confidence of others and builds trust.
3. Create trust by creating clear and concise commitments.
Throughout the conversation, clarity of the situation and commitments is critical. Always come into a productive conversation prepared with what you want to share. Take the time to say it out loud before the conversation so that you can clearly communicate your point of view or understanding of the situation. At the end of the conversation, you will need to clearly communicate the identified commitments or next steps. If you leave the conversation without clarity, then both parties may be focused on different actions and outcomes. Clarifying and delivering commitments to each other builds trust.
Ultimately, we all want to have productive conversations. The conversation could be focused on solving a problem or retaining key talent on the team. If the conversation is truly about helping others be successful, then everyone can deliver on the agreed-upon commitments. Our Productive Conversations programs, such as our Exceptional LeaderTM Program and our Individual Coaching, provide participants with tools, information, and practice to help leaders at all levels build relationships and deliver results on shared goals. Together we all can Lead to the Max!®️