Last week I was talking with a high potential leader. It was a casual conversation about how they came to get into leadership, about their family, and about what they wanted to ‘get’ from their job. It was one of hundreds of similar conversations I have had over my career. In reflecting on that conversation I realized how important it was to building our relationship. That conversation led me to think about the other conversations I had with other employees and leaders. They all seemed to have a purpose, to be part of a litany of conversations that contributed in some fashion to the foundation of all leadership – my relationship with that individual, and the building of their capability and capacity to perform the work they were hired to do.
Some of the key conversations I have are:
• Who they are
• What they want to achieve
• What they see as their role/purpose
• Expectations for their job (outcomes to be achieved, behaviors to be exhibited)
• How to do their job
• Clarification about an assignment, or how and why to do something a certain way
• How they are doing in their job – with their tasks, with their actions
• What needs they had (resources, where they are unclear, additional training)
• What can I do to help (remove obstacles, provide guidance, listen)
• How they are doing – checking in
What do these conversations look like in your world? Many of these conversations are conversations you can plan for. Do you plan for them? Do you think about the message you want to impart? The information you want to make sure you receive? The ‘tone’ you want to use? The encouragement you want to express?
Today, I spend some of my coaching time helping people plan for the more ‘difficult’ conversations they will have. Because the conversations are difficult, it is easy to hold their attention. Mostly, I’m working to help them achieve clarity for themselves as to what they want to have happen in and with the difficult conversation. What the message is they’re wanting to achieve, and how they want the individual to feel when the conversation is over.
While the ‘difficult’ conversations may receive more of our attention, the other conversations are important. Our ‘Intention’ for these conversations requires our ‘Attention.’ We never know how we impact others, but part of the reason this happens is because of our ‘intention’ for those conversations to impact and inspire others to be more of who they can be. Our conversations can help them to ‘fit’ into their job and into the culture. Out conversations provide clarity as to what is expected from them about their job and their behavior. Our conversations are about showing them support and helping them to feel valued. And, our conversations help them connect to the important work they do.
Our conversations are the foundational pieces of a great employee or a great leader. Be intentional. Our conversations, no matter how small, contribute, or they don’t, to building the relationship that helps determine our influence and the development of an aspiring person. As a leader, you have the opportunity to make so much happen. Be intentional!