Conversations are the Work of a Leader

Conversations are the work of a leader. I am borrowing this title and also the phrase “Our conversation is the relationship”, from the excellent book, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. As leaders, we inspire and motivate people when we spend time with them in conversation, letting them know they are valued, that their ideas are heard and appreciated, and that we are eager to help them grow.

Business is about relationships, quality relationships, founded on respect and trust.

Purposeful, ongoing conversations are the way to develop effective working relationships and energetic organizational culture. Through these conversations, we will gain many valuable ideas about what we are doing well, what people value and appreciate about our company, how we can improve and a wealth of other helpful ideas.

When we make conversations and relationships high priorities within our organization, we will significantly improve our working relationships, our company’s morale and our effectiveness as a leader. People who feel valued and heard are highly productive and loyal.

Conversations are all the more important today when so many of us tend to manage our people via correspondence, e.g., emails, conference calls, texts, and newsletters, and group meetings. This simply does not work especially well. Our people need to be with us, face to face, in order to feel we are genuinely interested in their ideas, their success and that we truly want to help them. This is how we inspire trust and loyalty.

Even brief conversations are opportunities to check in with our people and to demonstrate we genuinely care.

I know, it’s a challenge today to make the time for conversations. Everyone is busy – we must do more and more and we must contend with the endless flow of emails coming at us, meetings and other constant demands on our time. Yet, it is our responsibility as leaders to find the time!

Half of the workforce, yes, 50%, do not feel they have a helpful, constructive working relationship with their boss. And 75% feel under-appreciated! These are major reasons that employee engagement is low, morale is low and unwanted turnover is higher than we’d like. These are also reasons why financial results are inconsistent.

We can reverse this trend. We must spend less time in meetings and more time out of our offices, conversing with the people who are actually doing the work of our companies, and not just be with colleagues in the C-suites. Some days we may have only a few minutes to say, “Hello, how are you?” That’s okay. Again, a short conversation is better than no conversation. When we pick up the phone to check in with someone at a different location, it means the world to them.

Frank Barresi, who was a successful corporate communications consultant for 35 years, says he never met a CEO or other high level executive who did not proudly state that he has an open door policy. Frank rightfully points out that in order to have a truly effective open door policy, we must walk out the door of our office and engage our colleagues in conversations. Only then will people feel comfortable coming into our office to discuss their work, their ideas and their challenges.

In all businesses, our relationships with our team members and other colleagues are vitally important, and let’s remember:

Our conversation is the relationship

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