Leaders have an enormous responsibility to convene and conduct conversations where people involved feel free to speak openly without reprimand. Earlier this month we offered three important points to consider when having conversations. They were to 1) Listen fully. 2) Respond by offering genuine and authentic paraphrases. 3) Maintain a mindset of respect and presume positive intent on behalf of the other person, as well as yourself.
There is a process involved in holding a successful conversation – be it one that is planned and scheduled or one that happens in the spur of the moment. During our seminars, we teach this process on a deep level. For now, let’s look at three critical components of successful conversations.
- Trust – It is the leader’s responsibility to offer an attitude and environment of trust to those who gather for the conversation. Beginnings matter even as we know that trust grows and builds throughout the conversation. A smile, a handshake, calling someone by name, using a tone of voice that sends a message of respect and reassurance. When called into the leader’s office for a meeting, many people will tense up, even holding their breath. When is the last time you tried to talk while holding your breath?
- Agreements – As someone who is committed to being coach-like during your conversations, go for agreements. Agreements offer certainty about what we are going to talk about and how we will move through a conversation. When people feel that they are part of the decisions made around agreements, they are more likely to feel safe and respected and thus engage in the conversation at a much deeper level. Three types of agreements are:
- Time – Getting an agreement around time brings a greater sense of certainty. Instead of wondering how long this meeting is going to last – let’s agree together on the length – knowing times can be extended as all agree.
- Topic – This is the main focus for the conversation. Since we can only tend to one concern or challenge at a time, it’s critical to get clear on the “one thing” that we agree to as the main topic of the conversation and the importance of this one topic. Sometimes you bring the topic, but if it is truly a coaching conversation, the other person brings the topic.
- Outcomes – Many times we move into a conversation and never clearly identify the desired outcome for the conversation. We just keep talking until time is up. Typically, before getting to an agreed-upon outcome, there is a time for exploration around the topic to be clear on what is really desired as a result of the conversation. Exploration is a critical component of a conversation. Getting an agreement on the outcome is a must, as is stating the outcome verbally. Otherwise, you may have one idea of what the outcome for the conversation is, while others have a totally different understanding. Once the outcome is agreed upon – move the conversation toward the desired outcome.
- Follow-Up – Decisions are made during conversations that call for action on your part and the part of others. Without follow-through on next steps, there is no real movement toward the agreed upon desired results. Before the conversation ends, have participants state clearly their next steps to ensure follow-through.
What parts of this nugget are speaking the strongest to you? When you hold conversations, how do you establish a sense of trust between all engaged in the conversation? What methods do you use to identify agreements for the conversation? How clear are all involved on the identified outcome of the conversation? Finally, how do you plan for and ensure follow-through as a result of the conversation?
Want to increase your skills in holding successful conversations? Join us at an upcoming seminar and experience for yourself the power of being a coach leader.
Also, if you have not yet purchased one or both of our books on Results Coaching, here is the link for easy access.