Leaders in organizations today face greater challenges than ever before — from demands for unprecedented innovation, to the uncertainties of globalization, to economic volatility. And we require connected relationships to navigate the complexities of twenty-first century business life. Traditional hierarchical structures are evolving both inside and outside organizations; know-it-all bosses don’t help (and in fact create resistance). Busy people want speed and convenience, and technology — especially the screen — separates us instead of bringing us together.
The deeper connections required for success require deeper conversations. This article explores five ways to open meaningful dialogs with your colleagues and team members, helping you to strengthen trust and collaboration. These deep connections are essential in today’s workplace where knowledge sharing is crucial, ideas need to come from everywhere within the organization, and everyone needs buy-in to be successful.
Why do deeper conversations matter?
Demanding times have sparked significant exploration in recent years on how to get people working together better. According to the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study, “84 percent of respondents … need to rethink their workforce experience to improve productivity”.
One way to improve productivity and morale at work is to create deeper conversations with team members — not just coffee breaks or casual chats around water coolers (though these are also important). More intentional, formal approaches to good conversations can help the monthly staff meeting or weekly status update as well.
The benefits of deep conversation include: better understanding of others’ perspectives, enhanced creativity and higher levels of productivity. When we have meaningful discussions about our goals and how we can collaborate on them, people become more engaged. We feel as if others are hearing our voices and so feel included in decision-making processes.
However, when conversations don’t go further than ‘how was your day,’ we’re less convinced we’re being heard or valued. So for better team collaboration, try the following methods and see what you can learn.
Tips to make conversations at work more meaningful and engaging
Be Curious and Open
In a perfect world, we would all have the opportunity to be heard and understood. As leaders, it’s important for us to create an environment where team members feel valued. When approaching colleagues both familiar and unfamiliar, independent of topic — it’ll help to adopt an attitude of curiosity. Everyone has value to share. Pay attention, notice what comes up — you’ll discover what they may have to offer!
Ask Open-Ended Questions
We often have a tendency to ask closed questions that don’t invite extended dialog; these typically elicit a yes or no response. On the other hand, open-ended questions help us to learn more, foster extended conversation and build camaraderie. FEELING curious is great, AND SHOWING curiosity is what matters. When we do this, we are focused on the other person (to the exclusion of others), genuinely interested and affirmative of them, sharing airtime, and elevating/ acknowledging their ideas — even if for short periods of time.
The next time you communicate with a colleague, you might try these open-ended questions:
- What do you most enjoy about working here?
- What told you that this work was important for you to do now in your life?
- Tell me about a time you felt really fulfilled in your work?
Remember to listen fully to responses and follow up with additional open-ended questions.
Ask Meaningful Questions
Asking open-ended questions is a step toward creating deeper connections. However, asking meaningful questions that elevate a person’s experience can invite reflection and give rise to new ideas or conclusions for a person.
In his article, “Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations“, author David Brooks shares, “The important part of people’s lives is not what happened to them, but how they experienced what happened to them.”
Meaningful questions probe at the human experience, rather than just a recitation of events. Brooks says, “So many of the best conversations are not just a recitation of events. They involve going over and over an event, seeing it from wider perspectives coating it with new layers of emotion, transforming it, so that, say, an event that was very hard to live through is now very satisfying to remember.”
Listen More, Speak Less (It’s not all about you)
We all know that one person in the group who loves to talk and doesn’t tend to listen. In her article, “Talk Less. Listen More. Here’s How“, author Kate Murphy writes, “It is only by listening that we engage, understand, empathize, cooperate and develop as human beings.”
When you listen deeper, people feel validated and understood. But hearing what someone has to say is not the same as listening. True listening requires active focus on the person in front of you. This leads us to our next point.
Don’t Rush to Fill Gaps in Conversation
It’s common for people to think of what they will say once a person has finished talking. This takes your attention away from the person who is speaking and is the opposite of active listening. Instead, when a person has finished speaking, pause to consider what they have said and to think through your response. This improves your listening skills and helps you to formulate a well thought out response in relation to what was said, all of which will help to strengthen your personal connections.
In Demanding Times: What Can We Do Differently?
The workplace is more complex than ever before, with new challenges to navigate and a need for deeper connections. When leaders demonstrate interest in the unique perspectives, talents and individual qualities of team members, they foster greater collaboration, more ideas and create better decisions.
Demonstrating capabilities in verbal and nonverbal communication can transfer outside work as well, enriching the rest of your life relationships. For these and other ways to create deeper connections, please check out “Deepening Connection: 10 Ideas for Your First 10 Seconds”.