Simple conversation-starters for managers and leaders

August 12, 2008

One of the best tools a blogger has is a statistics page that provides the search terms people use to arrive at your blog. Today one of my search terms caught my eye: “simple conversations with tag questions.”

It struck me, I’ve talked about why simple conversations are worth your time, but I didn’t say how to start! Here are a few starters that will get your people talking about the things your business needs them to talk about:

  • What questions do you have for me? (I covered this one before as well, but it’s worth repeating.)
  • What do you know about ______? (whatever it is: latest corporate initiative, big new account, sales targets, etc.)
  • What’s going well for you at work these days?
  • What was frustrating for you at work this week? (Followed by the much-appreciated: Is there anything I can do to help?)
  • How do you think we could improve the way we’re doing this?
  • How would you approach this problem?
  • In a perfect world, what would you like us to do?
  • What do you think?
  • What feedback do you have for me?

Employees have questions. They have concerns. They have ideas. They want to share them, but they want to feel welcome to do so. And that’s why it’s so important for managers and leaders to create a safe, welcoming environment that encourages these exchanges.

No doubt there are many, many more questions you could ask employees to get them talking. What are some of your favorite conversation-starters?


Allow your personality to shine through! Part 3

July 29, 2008
Telling Stories by Enoch Mukiibi

Telling Stories by Enoch Mukiibi

My last two posts gave you two reasons to reveal your personality when you talk to your stakeholders (here and here). If you’re still not convinced, another reason to reveal your personality is to hold attention:

“When you stand up and speak to any audience, as their leader you have their attention. But keeping their attention is another challenge. If you are official, dispassionate, concerned about articulating your messages clearly, you will tend to have a flat, focused-on-the-facts presentation. No matter how significant your facts — how relevant, how dramatic — facts after awhile are exhausting, not compelling.

“When you strive to reveal your personality you will have a more conversational tone. You will have more rhythms and more gestures. You will include your stories. You will create the peaks and valleys you need to keep your audience engaged and, at moments, personally inspired.”

Again, Anett D. Grant‘s insight is valuable. First, if you allow yourself to relax and just BE, you’ll be more comfortable. And everyone works better when they’re comfortable, right? And second, notice where the inspiration comes into play. It’s not back there with the facts and figures. Instead, the inspiring happens with the conversational tone, the gestures, the stories. Your stories! The stories are where the connections happen, and that might be the best reason yet to reveal your personality as a leader.


Allow your personality to shine through! Part 2

July 28, 2008

Role Model by Joan Hasselman

In my last post, I gave you one good reason why you, as a leader, should reveal your personality when you talk to your stakeholders. As if that weren’t convincing enough, here’s another benefit of letting the real you shine through:

“When you want your values to guide the organization, you need more than carefully articulated words. The more you reveal your personality, the more your people will see you’re a whole person, understand what you really mean and then, like you, demonstrate those values in their thoughts and actions. If you communicate candor in your own personal way, you will provide the model your organization needs — to follow the leader. People get values from people, not from statements.”

Again, this idea belongs to Anett D. Grant, and I love it because it’s so true. To be effective, be genuine with your people to demonstrate that you expect authenticity from others as well. Here’s a terrific instance in which the most effective communication is allowing your actions to speak for you.

At least one more post on this… see you then.


Allow your personality to shine through! — Part 1

July 25, 2008
Karen Combs quilt Inner Glow

Karen Combs quilt Inner Glow

 

I found a very compelling argument that explains why you, as a leader, should reveal your personality when you talk to your stakeholders, whether they are employees, shareholders, customers or community members. I’m tackling this is three parts, and here’s the first:

 

Reveal your personality to inspire trust.

“When you work closely with people, one-on-one or in small groups, you establish trust in a natural, evolutionary way. But as your span increases, relationship-building over months transforms into impression-making in just a few minutes. Rather than having your people get to know you and then trust you, your people have to feel they know you and then trust you. By revealing your personality, moving from official to authentic, you will be able to establish that feeling, and build trust.”

This idea belongs to Anett D. Grant, whose executive speaking program was highly praised by my PR professor. He shared one of her speeches* as a model of effective speech construction, but the content itself is what captured my attention, obviously!

Managers, how many of you find yourselves in this situation? Many of you are lucky enough to build those relationships with teams over time. But for those of you out there whose span has increased a bit, how are you making it work? My next two posts — at least — will cover more on allowing your personality to shine through. See ya then.

* Note: If this speech has a home online, I’ve been unable to find it. I have a Word doc I’d share with anyone who wants it, complete with Ms. Grant’s copyright.

Another aside: Anyone who digs the image above should check out the work of Karen Combs, whose quilts are like none I’ve seen.