If you’re a manager, it can be hard avoiding getting wrapped up in what often feels like a never-ending workload. You won’t be the only one who’s tried to tune out the ‘noise’ so you can concentrate on the job in hand.
Businesses need to be efficient, productive and to eliminate ‘wasteful’ activities. But be careful you’re not filtering out the wrong things to try to achieve that. Like conversations.
It’s easy to dismiss conversations as a drain on time and a not particularly productive part of day to day working. But there are good reasons why conversations matter, including the ones that may seem superficial and not particularly ‘business-focused’. This article from HR magazine talks about understanding the implications in terms of neuroscience. Our brains are hard-wired to make us want to be connected with one another. We feel a need for information and certainty. We’re designed to want to influence decision making. If we aren’t feeling connected through conversation it impairs our ability to think effectively.
There’s even evidence that the effectiveness of teams can be predicted based on their conversation flow. While the study’s based on face to face situations, there are some interesting principles that potentially apply to many different ways of holding conversations. The need to give everyone their say. The need to converse with peers as well as leaders. The need to explore information and ideas with people outside the team or defined group.
The need to listen
Conversations are as much about the listening, and understanding what’s being said, as they are the talking. While that’s fairly obvious, do you always manage to do it properly? Unfortunately we’re all guilty of becoming absorbed in other activities and not always digesting what’s being said to us in the moment.
But when it comes to keeping your employees engaged, you need to be listening. You need to know what will motivate people and then act on that information to make sure every employee knows their actions and words are recognised and valued. How can that be achieved without conversations? With great difficulty.
This isn’t complicated stuff that needs to be prescribed in a policy or process. It’s just taking the time to ask the simple questions and then registering the response. ‘How are things going?’, ‘Are you ok?’, ‘You’re doing really well on that project, is there anything I can do to support you with it?’. It’s about having regular conversations that enable you to know what makes someone tick and what will be valued by, or help take the pressure off, them. We’re not talking about lengthy engagement surveys to determine employee attitudes. We’re talking one to one, day to day, regular conversations.
And it’s never been easier
In this day and age people no longer need to be sitting in the same office to have conversations. They don’t need to be in the same time zone or on the same continent. With so many options open to us now in the way we hold those conversations – face to face, on the phone, SMS, via social platforms, Skype – there are no excuses. There are endless ways to hold meaningful productive conversations that connect and build relationships and remember that productive and meaningful doesn’t have to mean formal. Because it’s often the casual conversations that give the most insights into how someone’s feeling and it’s those insights that’ll give you the opportunity to provide the support and recognition they need.