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?


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.