High Performance Conversations
How to Super Charge What We Say
“We’ve run coaching skills workshops, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. We want people to be having great conversations and it just doesn’t happen.” This is a story we hear a lot – and it’s not surprising when you think about it in a bit more depth.
Many companies have invested in coaching or feedback programmes as standalone items, and the challenge is that people might learn something, but then struggle to apply that back into their everyday context.
What do you want to achieve?
Often we want managers and in fact every member of the team to be having great conversations, driving high performance. A mix of recognition, praise, specific behavioural advice, feedback and delegation, support and challenge, combined with great questions and listening. How can we build that skillset?
Think of it like learning how to use coaching and feedback and delegation and inspiring vision story-telling all together for one hell of a good conversation. The gap that we face with developing this skill and behaviour is that we tend to deliver it in chunks – learn coaching, then learn feedback skills, then learn story-telling – we need to show people how to put all that learning together.
How can you do it?
The approach we have found really helpful is to:
1) Explore the problem and possible solutions so people come up with their own ideas on how to have better conversations
2) Introduce the component parts of great conversations and how they all fit together
3) Develop the component parts
4) Put them all together in skills practice
5) Work on behavioural habit embedding through manager support, coaching and/or action learning sets
Notice that the starting point is not to fill delegates’ minds with loads of tools, models and approaches – but ask them “what is the problem?” We all know that the quality of our conversations with our teams and colleagues can make or break a task or project’s success. So it’s something everyone can connect with when we ask questions like:
- What makes a good conversation that drives high performance?
- What does someone do and say in a really good conversation?
- What gets in the way of us having those good conversations? – Push on this for responses beyond the standard, “I don’t have time” – as what we do with our time reflects our priorities and comfort zones, so if we never have time for high quality conversations, that can say more about us than our workload
- What might be going on in our minds that makes us put off conversations or not be as effective as we could be when we’re having them?
- How might we overcome those challenges? We need to acknowledge that knowing what we should do – and doing it, are two different things. How might we start doing what we know we should do?
How do you develop the skills so that people use them?
Based on people’s responses to the questions in the problem-solving session, we’ve found the same challenges coming up time and time again. So we can then create behavioural skills workshops that address the learners’ challenges, the most common being:
- Keeping calm and staying focused on the outcome you want – which we develop using principles of mindfulness and emotional intelligence
- Being more specific about what someone did and what they need to do differently – using tools that help people prepare their feedback
- Influencing the person to understand the importance of change – referring to influencing styles and tools, as well as ways of exploring the impact of behaviour
- Holding people to account – giving people the words to monitor without being a micro-manager
- Pulling it all together – practising with real life examples and live feedback to put all that learning into practice, followed by action learning sets and/or coaching to monitor learning application
There is often more that needs to be covered, but the above gives a great starting point to building the mindset and skills to be effective.