How to evaluate your conversations in the workplace

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Did you ask more questions or spend most of the time making statements? Questions pull people into the conversation. They engage their minds and force them to participate. Questions stimulate their minds and offer them opportunities to contribute to the discussion or give solutions to problems. Asking questions also conveys to employees that you value their input. If you never ask a single question you appear to only enjoy hearing yourself talk convey that you care less what your employees have to say.

Did you sound like a know-it-all or someone who genuinely wanted to be understood? In the excellent book, Made to Stick, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath refer to the curse of knowledge that inhibits clear communication. People who are experts in their field forget what it was like to know little or nothing of the subject they are discussing and leave their listeners in the dark. Consider the level of your employee’s understanding on a topic and don’t assume they know everything you know. Speak to be clear and understood, not to sound complex.

Was your tone rushed, annoyed and indifferent or did you genuinely focus on the conversation as though you had all the time for them in the world? Body language is about as important as the words you choose when conversing with an employee. Listeners can spot your aloofness easily and actually build resentment before the conversation has concluded.

Did you show any interest in the employee’s personal life or jump straight to business issues? Employees are not machines that need to be oiled on occasion. They are living and breathing human beings who have lives outside the workplace. They appreciate that you take an interest in their families or hobbies. When you know they have just recently experienced a personal tragedy they are touched when you express your condolences and check to see how they are doing. Pouncing on them as you walk by in the work area communicates that you only think of them as commodity.

If you have a hard time evaluating the quality of your conversations, invite a co-worker to go with you the next time you make your rounds and solicit their honest brutal feedback. Ask them the same questions outlined above and listen to their suggestions.

Let’s face it, management is communication. If you can’t communicate clearly and effectively your workgroup will suffer greatly.

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