Tips for successful business conversations
Who Avoids Difficult Business Conversations?
Answer: almost everyone. We all know people at work who are loud, opinionated or even confrontational. But that is entirely different to saying something to someone you know personally which neither you nor they would want to hear.
The usual reaction is the “ostrich” route: head in the sand and hope it goes away. But we know that the issue festers and plays on our mind, doing no-one any good and is never a successful business conversation.
Issues range from the annoying but relatively benign: eg loud voice on the telephone; always eating communal team biscuits but never contributing, or asking you something by email when they sit right next to you. All too often we allow these habits to continue to annoy us rather than speak directly to the colleague asking them to stop.
And in this e-communication age, many of us even avoid talking to clients or prospects because it is easier to fire off an email thinking that we have done “our bit”. Here is a great short blog by Mike Ames about the importance of picking up the telephone and actually talking to prospects to get results: mikeamesonline.
More avoidance strategies
A more serious yet common avoidance strategy comes to not telling direct reports where they are falling short in the job. All too often, clients complain to me about team members who are pretty useless, but when I ask them when they last had a meeting about their performance there is a blank look. Even worse is where they have gone to the trouble of giving appraisals, but they only contain glowing comments. We have all seen it happen.
And at the extreme end of the spectrum, there is a downward spiral of poor relationships but with no-one getting to the nub of the issue in a constructive way. This can lead to an unpleasant discussion involving the words “exit settlement” and “protected conversation”, often accompanied by an expensive cheque.
In my view, the main reason for this behaviour is because people do not like to say something negative and personal face-to-face. It is hard, or at least we think it is. The trick is to turn the conversation into a positive, engaging, discussion, for the recipient.
How it can work
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it may not be as hard as you think. Take a look at this excellent video by Jon Trevor of Let’s Talk: letstalk/teamwork-and-communication. Jon explains a five-step process to approach any difficult conversation which encourages the recipient to (a) feel respected and (b) work out the solution to the problem him/herself.
Try it. Have that face-to-face meeting that you have been avoiding. Use your body language and voice to show control, respect and positive engagement. You may find you start dealing with issues head-on – both at work and at home.
Why not contact us if you think some training would be helpful for your managers and teams to have those successful business conversations
(c) Ben Thornber, Thornber HR Law