Conversations Good Leaders Have Daily

Good leaders are great communicators. Some think that means inspiring staff with your vision and directing them. But if that’s all you’re doing, you are missing out on something important. Effective communication requires both a sender and a receiver who engage each other with constant feedback. That’s why really great leaders start up conversations with employees every day. What do they talk about? Take a look at these conversations good leaders have and give them a try in your small business.

Why It’s Important

Conversations can be a great way to take the temperature of your business. They capitalize on the feedback aspect of communication. That feedback gives you an opportunity to see things from a different perspective—your front-line employees. They’re often the closest to your customers and have valuable information.

An interesting thing happens when you start a conversation with someone. They feel included. That can be a powerful motivator for employees and positively impact their performance. It also makes you more approachable. And that gives them permission to start conversations with you. Think of it like spontaneous quality assurance sessions.

How to Start

Open-ended statements are a great way to start a conversation. That’s a comment or a question that usually takes more than one or two words to answer. For example, “Do you like the new return policy?” can be answered with “yes” or “no.” The conversation stops there. But if you rephrase it to, “Tell me what you think about the new policy,” you’re likely to get more details.

Here are some conversations good leaders can have with employees (many work with customers too):

  • That’s amazing, how did you do that? – Employees often find different ways of doing the same thing. This statement recognizes that and probes for more information. You may find that it’s a repeatable process that others can benefit from too. And it’s another way to thank employees for a job well done.
  • You make an excellent point, tell me more. – Behavior that is reinforced gets repeated. So by praising a comment, an employee will likely do it again (and you’ll learn something). If you do it in front of others, they’re likely to speak out too.
  • I don’t know, what do you think? – You might be the leader but that doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Starters like this acknowledge that fact and challenge your staff to brainstorm ideas. It’s honest and helps to authentically build trust.
  • Don’t worry, things happen. What would you do differently next time? – Edison is reported to have failed 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb. He said he didn’t fail 1,000 times but it took that many steps to invent it. Innovation is the result of failure and the lessons learned from it. This starter gives employees permission to fail and learn.
  • How can I help? – Try this starter when you see an employee struggling. It acknowledges their frustration and attempts to stick with an issue. It can uncover problems with equipment, processes, or lack of direction. These are all issues you wouldn’t get without their feedback.

If these conversation starters sound simple, they are. But they are often overlooked. As a leader, look for opportunities to use these as part of your daily interaction with employees or customers.

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