Leadership is all about improving the process in order to produce better results, and leadership shows up most in conversation. Here are four conversations to have with your team in order to improve leadership, influence behavior of team members and increase productivity.
Conversation #1 Manage Actions, Not People
Managing is where you use your authority. The managing conversation is for when things just need to get done and your team members need direction on how and when to do it. This conversation generally comes more naturally to people, as it is simply a passing on of knowledge. But finding the right dynamic of managing is something that takes practice; when employees are given assignments from pushy managers, they may impulsively choose to protect themselves rather than engage. But by focusing your conversation on values and the possibilities of the team rather than assignments, you take steps towards managing the actions, not the people themselves.
Conversation #2 Advising: Know Your Stuff!
When it comes to advising team members, it is essential to have expertise in the subject matter. If they do not respect your expertise, they are not likely to heed your advice. Like managing conversations, you must convey authority.
A pitfall that often accompanies advising is the tendency to profess knowledge and neglect the impact the person is getting from it. It is a natural tendency to begin waxing poetic on a topic we are familiar with when we are given a platform to do so, but it is vital that we check ourselves if we feel such an urge. Ask yourself “what is my intention? Am I just trying to show off or do I genuinely want to help?” A good way to avoid the trap is to ask them questions and support their learning rather than just instructing them. By doing this, you can engage in conversation, rather than merely preaching.
Conversation #3 Leading: Look to the Future
Leadership is about the process, not just the results. It is a look to the future, and a leading conversation moves people towards that valuable future. This is the conversation people most associate with leadership, since the leading conversation is essentially the “rah-rah” speech. Leading gets people excited about an idea, but by itself it does not function as leadership. Leadership is about making things happen, not just believing that they can. All four of these conversations are needed for true leadership, but leading serves as the influence.
Conversation #4 Coaching: Be a Team Player
Although it sounds similar to advising, coaching is essentially the opposite. Coaching is about maintaining effectiveness within the team by drawing from the team member as opposed to the leader simply dispensing knowledge. With the first three conversations, authority is somewhat of a benefit, but in coaching, it is harder for someone with authority to effectively coach. This is because subordinates may be more inclined to hold back when talking to a boss for fear of looking bad or going against the status quo. A leader who is on the same level is often the most effective coach within a team.
Communication is how we display leadership and conversations are how we distribute that leadership through our team. As in everything, it takes practice to be a great conversationalist, but put each of these into practice on a regular basis and you will see results.
Any other leadership conversations you use? Leave us a comment.