Conversation: A Key Supervisory Tool

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If you’re a boss, conversations are your primary tool for conveying and gathering information. Handle them right and outsiders think you get great results effortlessly. Here are a few tips for better conversations at work.

Show up or touch base a lot. You can’t have a conversation if you’re not with someone. Making contact is your responsibility. The great supervisors I studied all showed up a lot.

A few years ago, I changed that principle from “show up a lot” to “touch base a lot.” More and more supervisors had teams that were scattered across geography. They couldn’t show up physically, but they could still touch base. They could still have conversations.

Have natural conversations about work and other things. It’s your responsibility to make this happen so, what do you talk about?

Talk about something you and a team member have in common. It doesn’t have to be big or important. And you don’t have to fake it. The odds are that you’ve got at least one thing in common with everyone on your team. Start with that.

Have conversations about work. Tell people what you expect, then listen for questions and reactions. Conversations are two way.

Have conversations with people about behavior or performance that needs to change. Supervisors list this as the most hated part of their job, but it doesn’t need to be.

Learn a pattern that works. I like my Three W’s. Tell them What the subject of the conversation will be. Tell them Why it’s important. Then Wait for them to talk. That’s when you get to the conversation part.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Master the tools. Learn to have effective conversations with team members whether it’s casual, work-related, or helping to change performance or behavior.

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