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How to Start Effective Conversations with Your Employees

How to Start Effective Conversations with Your Employees

Starting effective conversations, especially about career choices, may be difficult. When it comes to meeting effectiveness in general, the first few minutes are the most important ones: they set the goal, focus level, and atmosphere, which are very hard to change later. How could the first minutes of effective conversations look?

We need to establish an atmosphere that will give us feelings and facts that we can discuss, but can also open the discussion and stimulate more questions and ideas, rather than closing them down to just discussing a few pre-prepared bullet points.

Challenge, Fun, Team

There is a very simple technique that I found very successful in serving that purpose. There are three simple questions to ask:

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  • What is your challenge level?
  • What is your fun level?
  • How do you rate your team?

All you need is a sheet of paper—draw three bars on it, explain what they mean, and ask your employee to put three dots on the bars.

Challenge, Fun, Team

    The order is really important: challenge, fun, team. Challenge opens the discussion with the right question: “Am I using my skills effectively and do I feel I am developing?” Fun connects strongly with both challenge level and the team perception, that’s why it’s in the middle. Team is a very important factor, too; no action is meaningless in a community.

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    Examples

    There are few typical examples that I found through that exercise:

    1. Not challenged enough
      Underchallenged person
        Typically that person will be unsatisfied with their work, and may be thinking about changing their job. Their ratings for “fun” and “team” are usually very low as well. People who aren’t challenged enough aren’t motivated, and can demotivate the team in a downward spiral as well.
      • Over-challenged
        Over-challenged person

          As you increase the challenge level, so does the fun. However, there is a point at which the person becomes over-challenged, which kills the fun aspect because of stress and anxiety. In that area, levels of fun and job dedication depend strongly on the team. Once I was told that the person is radically over-committed, but the team is so great that it made projects really enjoyable. Of course this can’t work long-term, but it reveals very important information to you before it’s too late.
        • Great team
          Great Team
            There were few examples in which people rated the team with the max score. They told me that if they were to prepare another wedding the next month, the entire team would be invited! Would you like to work in such a team? It’s of vital importance to award such people: consider organizing a great event for the team—possibly during working hours. This show of appreciation generally works much better than any other incentive. When you have a great team, you need to be very careful about re-organizations, or people quitting their jobs, as such things will greatly destabilize the team as a working unit.

          Effective Conversations

          What I like about this exercise is that it gives you a lot of information, and opens up a really great and honest discussion at the same time:

          “You said you were not challenged enough. What would be a positive challenge for you?”

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          “Your task is critical to us and you are doing well at it, but it seems you are not enjoying it at all. How could we change that?”

          “You said you were challenged, but it seems that you find no fun in your work. Why?”

          “It seems that as a person you are challenged appropriately and have real fun, but you rate your team with a very low score. Why?”

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          By asking such questions, people will not only tell you what the problem is, but in most cases they will give you the solution right away. People do not want to be a part of the problem: they want to be a part of the solution.

          Career conversations are a hot topic right now. As coaching becomes more and more popular, many managers read books related to career conversations like “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go” or consider using DixIt cards to talk about emotions. They may, however, miss this “standard tool” method that they could use for longer periods of time.

          This tool worked well in my case and I hope it will also be very successful for you.

          More by this author

          Piotr Nabielec

          Author, CEO, Consultant

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          The Gentle Art of Saying No

          The Gentle Art of Saying No

          No!

          It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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          But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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          What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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          But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

          1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
          2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
          3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
          4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
          5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
          6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
          7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
          8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
          9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
          10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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