Why simple conversations are worth your time

July 24, 2008

Conversations by Louisa Bufardeci

Last week, my co-worker who leads our manager development program made the case that managers should invest their time initiating and continuing conversations with their team members, both as a team and as individuals. More than just chit-chat (although that’s important, too), he advocated enlightening conversations because managers have a chance to:

  • find and answer questions
  • clarify ambiguity
  • provide important detail
  • help advance projects and meet deadlines
  • ensure your team is moving toward the same goals

Of course, because conversation is a two-way exchange, there are benefits for the employees on your team as well. They will appreciate the opportunity to:

  • ask questions
  • share their insights and concerns
  • help improve how your team completes its work

Enabling these critical conversations is one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities. Because, if you think about it, most problems can be resolved through effective communication, and most innovations begin with conversation. The key is always keeping in mind the two-way exchange: both talking and actively listening.

Advertisements

Shut up and listen.

July 3, 2008

I’m reviewing notes from the IABC International Conference in New York June 22-25. One speaker had her roomful of strangers pair up and tell a vivid, two-minute story about our childhood. It could be about anything, but it had to be descriptive enough for the other person to have a real vision of the circumstances.

My partner told a rich tale of shopping every Sunday afternoon with her grandmother, walking the mall together, getting treats — she even remembered to describe her scent (a little talcum powder, a little Aqua Net and sometimes a dash of Icy Hot). The lush detail got me thinking about my own grandmothers. I started formulating my own story to share before I even realized it.

“Not the point,” I had to remind myself. I had to keep chomping on my tongue to allow her the time and freedom to speak without interrupting or interrogating or otherwise getting in the way. When I focused on listening to her, we connected. There was common ground. And the images she left in my brain sparked memories I might not have accessed if I’d been formulating my answer instead of actively listening. The point of the exercise is clear: we have only one mouth and two ears, which might mean we should listen twice as much as we talk.