Great Conversations

Throughout our day there are many opportunities to create Great Conversations. Through conversation, we find connections with others. It’s a way to build relationships and get things done. It’s also a way to find meaning and purpose within ourselves. A Great Conversation is one in which there is a give and a take, mutual understanding and a shared responsibility. Creating Great Conversation is an art, an art anyone can learn.

Think about one of the last really great conversations you had.

  • Who was it with?What did you talk about?
  • What connections were generated or fused together?
  • How did you feel afterwards?
  • How about during?

There are a variety of Great Conversations that can take place. Presented here are three most common to work and careers. The first is often the easiest to avoid.

The Difficult Conversation.

How do you eat an elephant? You start by taking the first bite. That’s what you need to do in a difficult conversation. Take the first bite – not literally, that’s not going to accomplish anything. But, you do need to start some place. When faced with a difficult conversation, your place in the conversation is essential to its outcome.

Do you come from a place of fear? A place where you feel attacked, unsure of what’s next or even betrayed? It’s easy to throw up the defensive coat of arms and ready yourself for battle, again, that will get you no where.

Your place must come from curiosity. A desire to seek and understand.

According to Ed Batista, a leadership coach from Stanford University, there are 4 tips on starting the difficult conversation.

  1. Start with something positive. This will ensure that you lead with your best foot and connect with the other person.
  2. Use “I” statements to express your perspective and your feelings. Starting from the place of curiosity will help you uncover the many facets of the possible “truth” in question.
  3. Don’t make assumptions about the other party’s perspective. (They may not even be aware that there’s a problem, or it may not be their fault–and they may be happy to help solve it if they’re approached in the right way.)
  4. State your request clearly, firmly and politely. (And acknowledge any concessions that are granted.)

The Networking Conversation.

I had a chance to meet Harvey Mckay, the networking guru, last summer. This is a man who knows (and teaches!) the art of creating Great Conversations through networking. Networking isn’t just about shaking hands and exchanging cards. It’s really about relationship building. Conversation is about relationship building. Mckay asserts that the time to dig your well (build your network) isn’t when you are thirsty (looking for a job) but now. Engaging in the Networking Conversation is simple. It’s about making connections with people you want to know. These may be people who are able to help you in the next phase of your career. Moreover, they are people that you are creating relationships with through the art of conversation.

The Networking Conversation has a simple formula: Ask. Listen. Share.

When you meet someone, ask a question that allows them to start their story. This engages the person and allows them to share what’s important to them. “How did you get started in your field?” “What do you enjoy most about the work you do?” “What’s the secret to your success?” People enjoy sharing their stories. After you’ve heard their story, it’s time to share a bit of yours. Here, and only here, is when the more-than-formal ritual of the “card exchange” occurs. This is your pass to continue the Networking Conversation and build the relationship even further. Be sure to ask how and when you should follow up.

The Development Conversation.

This conversation is about enhancing your current job skills, knowledge or abilities. Too often, we become complacent in our daily work routines. To keep engaged and build your skill set, seek out new opportunities within your current job to keep you moving along your career path – these are referred to as development activities.

Before initiating this conversation with your manager, have a keen sense of where you are AND where you’d like to be. Identify work related interests that you would like to enhance and that will contribute to the mission of the organization. The Development Conversation is about building on the skills you already have.

To help you prepare for this conversation, take a few minutes to complete these questions:

  • What future career related goals do you have?
  • What are your current strengths related to the work you do?
  • What areas or skills would you like to further enhance or develop?
  • What action steps would help you accomplish this?
  • At the end of the year, how will you benefit from these development activities?
  • How will your organization benefit?

Once you have reflected on these questions, have the Development Conversation with your supervisor. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Set up a meeting with your manager. Ask for an hour to discuss development opportunities.
  2. At the meeting, clarify with your manager, the goals and priorities for the department over the next year or two, and how you fit into this vision or plan.
  3. Describe to your manager the skills that you would like to build on, and ask for help in finding ways to link your career goals to the vision of the department.
  4. Together, identify appropriate opportunities that would get you closer to achieving your goals.
  5. Set up a time to revisit your progress and get input from your supervisor along the way.

Here are a few more resources to help you initiate Great Conversations in your workplace:

Crucial Conversations by Peterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler


Initiating Difficult Conversations

Tools from Harvey Mckay

Relationships at Works



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