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.

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Why should managers and leaders care about communicating?

July 9, 2008

Whatever else you thought your job was about, chances are it involves a lot more writing than you ever imagined — through just email alone! But if you’re a supervisor or program manager, communication takes an even more prominent role in your work… or it should. Here’s why:

  • Someone wants to know what’s happening in your department. It might be your supervisor. It might be an auditor. It might be an HR person. Whatever the case, are you prepared to talk about how your team is performing?
  • Your project or program requires that you create messages to employees or customers, whether the messages are emails or brochures or fliers or web content or some other swanky medium. Do you know where to start?
  • Undoubtedly your department or project team has a list of goals to accomplish, all on different timelines. To accomplish these goals, your team has to be humming along at a pretty good clip, right? How can your team be the efficient “machine” it needs to be if the team members aren’t talking?
  • More than that, as a manager or team leader or project lead or whatever you want to call yourself, you have a unique opportunity to influence the lives of the people you’re working with. Their interaction with you can be positive or negative. To use a lovely boating metaphor: Think about the wake you’re leaving.
  • OK, now hold on while I get a little deep. Remember those department or project goals you had? What happens if you miss? What happens to the company goals or business strategy? This stuff matters. It matters if you’re a public company with obligations to shareholders. It matters if you work in a private company in an economy like this. It certainly matters if you’re in the nonprofit world. So, connecting the dots, if your team can achieve its goals by communicating better, couldn’t the organization achieve its goals if every department were communicating better?

It sounds a little cheesy, but I have this vision that we might actually be able to improve not only our happiness at work but also the way our organizations perform, if we — as leaders — get better at communicating. This doesn’t have to be hard or painful or embarassing. Just talking. Just thinking about things a little differently maybe, or being open to new ideas. Whaddaya think? Can we fix anything just by talking about it?