Want to be a great boss? Spend time talking with your
people. Sure, Tweets and emails and text messages are important, but
conversations are the real power tool.
If you touch base often with your people, you’ll have conversations
naturally, because that’s what people do. Those natural conversations will be
about lots of things including work. Your big challenge will be to be a
participant in the conversation and not the director.
Relationships grow in those natural conversations. They’ll give you a reserve
of familiarity and trust that you’ll need when times get tough. They’ll also
make other, sensitive conversations more likely to come out well. Those
conversations start when you notice something.
Most problems and most development opportunities don’t start big. You’ll
notice some behavior or change in performance that calls for comment. In the
course of conversation you can naturally mention what you’ve observed and nudge
the team member to change behavior or consider an opportunity.
Those ”nudge conversations” may stop unacceptable behavior before it
becomes a habit or poor performance before it gets worse. You can also use one
to point out above average performance in an area that a team member may want to
What I call “head’s up” conversations are the bridge between the informal and
the formal. They include letting a team member know that if certain behaviors
continue, you will begin documenting and describing what the possible
consequences might be.
There’s also a more positive form of head’s up. There you encourage a team
member to apply for training or an assignment or let them know that you’re going
to recommend them for something.
The conversations you have with team members who have performance issues
involve documentation and whatever remediation tools your organization has. For
team members pursuing developmental opportunities your conversations will
involve coaching and connecting the team member to other people and resources.
Boss’s Bottom Line
Conversations are tools you use to influence behavior and performance.
Be careful to pick the right tool for the job.