Back to Back Issues Page
iManage, Issue #37 - 3 Steps to Better Workplace Conversations
March 13, 2013


iManage, Issue #37 - 3 Steps to Better Workplace Conversations

Why is it that some managers have the ability to hold great workplace conversations and have their finger on the pulse, whereas others can be completely unaware of situations that are right in front of their eyes?

Good people managers work towards building trust with their team members, so that they are encouraged to share what is going on. Asking the right questions is a key skill that they use, whether they learned how to do it, or it comes naturally.

Here are 3 steps to more meaningful workplace conversations.

Step 1: Get your timing right

So you have decided that you want to communicate better with someone on your team. Where do you start? Choose a time when you (and they) are not under pressure to be somewhere else.

Arrange a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, or suggest they join you for a coffee. Avoid having them sit at the other side of your desk – you need to change the energy and the table could be a barrier to a good, flowing conversation.

Step 2: Use a good opener

The words you use to start a conversation can bring it in a whole new direction. For example, “What’s the status of the project?” focuses very much on the task at hand.

Sometimes a great conversation can be started with “Hi... how are you feeling today?” It suggests that you have a genuine interest in the other person - which helps to put them at ease. Whether their response is “really great” or “really frustrated”, you will get a better insight into what is happening for them.

Follow their response with appropriate probing questions to explore the what /when/where of the situation.

Step 3: Keep the conversation flowing

Some managers are really skilled at managing workplace conversations, so that the other person feels listened to and doesn’t go on the defensive/offensive.

Let your team member know that you are listening to not only their words, but the emotions being expressed behind them. Simple statements such as “I hear you” can be very powerful. Link your questions to what they are saying.

For example, if they respond with “I am getting really fed up with our suppliers”, respond with “What’s making you feel fed up?” Or “I don’t believe that the supplier cares about quality” could be followed with “So you feel they don't appreciate our standards ?

Use lots of good body language, such as eye contact, friendly facial gestures and an open posture. It is a good practice to build in some time for each of your team members on a one on one basis regularly.

It will give you the opportunity to ask powerful questions and keep in touch with what’s really going on with your team.

Watch out for this month's webinar where we will focus more on great questions you can use to in order to have meaningful workplace conversations. Details to follow shortly!

For a comprehensive guide to managing people and yourself in the workplace download our Essential Management Skills Workbook Collection

Best wishes

Ann Halloran

Practical Management Skills

Practical management skills advice for business owners and managers. Get best practice tips on a personal development and people management skills such as time management, leadership, communication, managing change and more.

Content based on 30 years management/consultancy experience gained in a wide range of business sectors.

Back to Back Issues Page