Once a leader has established clear intentions and beliefs, the next step is to make them come alive. The best, most effective tool for leaders who want to transform their intention into visible action is managing their conversations. A leader cannot afford to under estimate the power of a common, ordinary conversation.
Start by examining your perceptions and beliefs about the people you work with. Leaders view people through a lens — what is yours? Do you see your employees as capable, resourceful and motivated? Do your conversations reflect that? Do you recognize that people are constantly making choices about how they respond to the circumstances they see? If leaders recognize that others are making their own meaning of life and work and living complex lives outside the boundaries of work – it opens up the possibilities for engaging conversations based on disclosure and learning about others’ legitimate perspectives.
Using conversations for disclosure requires transparency. Leaders show courage by revealing their intentions publically and asking for others’ help in holding themselves accountable. What is it that you want followers to tell you when you step out of bounds? Disclosure also means being transparent about the business issues and delivering the “unvarnished” truth about what’s going on — without overstating or spinning information. It also means being clear about what is required of everyone to meet the challenges, what is negotiable, what is not, and what potential choices people have about facing the future.
Using conversations for engagement involves showing authentic interest in others, and in their point of view about circumstances, direction and decisions. It means articulating the fact that compliance is not good enough for excellent customer service and marketplace success. It means speaking directly about accountability and finding out what it takes for others to truly commit. This means encouraging people to examine the choices they see as they face the future.
Here are three critical skills for having conversations for disclosure and engagement:
- Tell the truth with goodwill – be direct and compassionate. Recognize the reality that people are choosing what they make of what you say. Ask yourself: “Is what I am doing congruent with what I am saying?”
- Take the other side – state out loud the position of others and make that argument. Your ability to do so demonstrates you were listening and validates others’ points of view. If you think their position is not valid think again – they are describing their experience.
- Own your own contribution to the situation – own up to things you have done to create the difficulty you are trying to resolve. Contributions are acts of omission or commission.