As a leader in any type of business, helping your staff achieve their best is a major part of the job. Ultimately, when you’re in a leadership position, you’re answerable for the results of your team. So, it stands to reason that you’d want to do everything possible to get the best out of them right? Often, this requires a softer approach than simply setting expectations and monitoring performance.
Soft skills are a major part of corporate training for a very good reason. Because happy, engaged staff who feel comfortable at work produce better results. When people attend business courses Australia, they want to learn how to communicate with influence, but communication is a lot more than that. Conversation plays a key role in creating an environment where staff feel appreciated, welcome, and comfortable to bring the best version of themselves to work.
The Importance of conversation
When we talk about communication in the workplace, it’s easy to get bogged down in the more formal side of things. How to write effective emails. How to communicate your needs and influence others. But there’s another crucial part of communication that sometimes gets lost in a busy work environment. Conversation.
Conversations happen around us all day. We’re involved in plenty of them ourselves, but often we can underestimate just how important they are. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is assuming they can’t have meaningful conversations with staff. They feel a need to project themselves as a figure of authority, which of course is somewhat necessary. But that doesn’t mean they can’t interact with their team on a more human level.
Conversation is all part of building an inclusive workplace where people feel comfortable. And it’s no secret that happy staff are better performers.
Getting to know your staff
How much do you know about your staff? Not just how they perform at work or the personality they bring to the office. How much do you really know about them? Everybody has a life outside of work, and as a leader it’s helpful to know who your team members really are.
It can often be difficult for leaders to create a balance. There is a common misconception that you can’t be friendly with staff, because they’ll take advantage of your good nature. In most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When staff feel their manager genuinely takes an interest in their life, it increases their engagement at work considerably.
You don’t need to be everybody’s best friend, but take some time to get to know your team. Knowing the names of their partner and children is a great start. Ask them how they spent their weekend. Showing a real interest develops a sense of trust, and this is great for workplace culture.
Praise and recognition
One of the most common reasons for staff engagement is a lack of recognition. In fact, research indicates that 79% of people who quit jobs do so because they feel they don’t get the recognition they deserve. When businesses get this type of feedback, they often jump to implement a rewards and recognition program, or something similar, but that’s often not what staff are looking for.
They’re looking for more meaningful conversation. A simple acknowledgement from their boss when they’ve done something over and above. A genuine ‘thank you’ at the end of a difficult and busy day. These types of ad-hoc conversations go a long way to increasing engagement and making people feel they belong.
Inspiring and motivating
It’s difficult to inspire and motivate people without good communication skills. However, it’s not all about dramatic speeches of encouragement. Sometimes, the smaller conversations inspire people the most.
Consider you have a team member who is pursuing a promotion, or a new role within the organisation. You want them to succeed, because the success of your staff is a reflection on you as a leader. Rather than boking formal mentoring sessions (which are important too), sharing an honest conversation can have just as much impact.
Share some stories of your previous job pursuits. If you were in their position before getting promoted yourself, let them know you understand. Taking the formality out of your conversations creates an environment where everybody can be inspired to achieve their goals.
Open and honest communication
There’s a lot to be said about being open and honest in your conversations. Essentially, this is when conversations are at their best. Sometimes, it’s not even about agreeing with the other person, but more about being honest about your standpoint.
In the modern business world, a tyrannical approach where leaders are feared just isn’t sustainable. Employee engagement is such a key factor in an organisation’s success, and staff are often looking for more human leadership. This is where honest conversation comes in.
If you don’t have all the answers, say so. If you can’t grant somebody’s leave application, honestly explain why. Your team members respect you a lot more if they can trust you to always be straight with them. The result is a team who also feels safe being honest with you.
We’ve talked a lot about how to communicate and have conversations with your team, but there’s another side of conversations that’s equally important. Active listening. By active listening, we mean really listening to someone and being present in the conversation, not just hearing their words while thinking about something else.
Most good business training has a focus on active listening, because it’s necessary to have a real conversation. When you’re talking to staff, give them the opportunity to speak, and really listen. Acknowledge that you’re listening and understanding their point of view. Even if it’s just a casual conversation about what happened on the weekend, it’s important to really take in what someone says.
Best of all, when you actively listen to somebody, they can tell. This means they’ll be more inclined to share conversation with you, and that’s how you learn more about your people.
Always ask before acting
As a leader, there’s often a temptation to just go ahead and do what’s right for your staff. This is admirable, but it’s not always the best course of action. As an example, let’s consider you become aware that a team member is having trouble dealing with Human Resources over an issue with their pay. You might be inclined to contact HR directly to try and help resolve the situation.
Sometimes, this might be appreciated. However, having a conversation with that staff member is always a better first step. Find out what’s bothering them, and what their issue is. The same can be said if you know that someone is having a conflict with another team member. Rather than coming in over the top and trying to solve things, take the time to have a conversation.
Not only is this a practical move to fully understand a situation, but it also helps foster a caring workplace culture. Show staff you care about their issues. Because sometimes, they don’t even want you to solve the problem – they just want to talk and be heard.
Celebrate important events
Another key to good leadership is celebrating important events for staff. If one of your team members has a birthday, for example. Or if someone has had some sporting success over the weekend with their local team. Acknowledging the moments that matter increases staff engagement, and lets them know you care.
You don’t have to throw a party for every occasion, but talking to people and acknowledging those moments is a great thing to see from a leader. But what if you don’t know about these important events? That’s where we go straight back to our first point – get to know your staff. Casual conversation in the workplace helps you become a better leader.