Top Tips for Effective Conversation
1. Chaos is not creative
Most conversations fail to reach their potential because of interruptions – verbal and non-verbal. Participants are so busy trying to jump in that they fail to listen. If you are holding a creative meeting to generate ideas; or trying to overcome barriers to progress, build in regular pauses during which you ask each person in turn to speak without interruption.
2. Goals count
When you have problems or difficulties to overcome, first spend time making your goal crystal clear. Where do you want to be? How will you know you are there? Think about the desired future, what will be different? What are the steps along the way? If you do this, it becomes far easier to generate options to overcome barriers.
3. Make time to think
Much consultation is of limited value. The dominant speak whilst others nod agreement. That can work for making decisions but it doesn’t tell you what people really think. Provide structured opportunities for all present to write down their ideas on a card – this provides time to think as well as access to a broader range of views.
4. Encourage ideas
Many managers are exhausted by staff who delegate upwards. Resist sharing your expertise to begin with and practice asking them for their ideas first: "What have you tried so far? What else do you think might work? What are the possibilities here?" You don’t have time to do everyone else’s work, so restructure your time so that you develop your staff. Nothing else will save you as much time.
5. Model stakeholder engagement
Most organisations don’t spend enough time finding out what others think. By asking the right questions of your team, you can encourage them to stand in the shoes of service users, clients and other stakeholders. Before any meeting with stakeholders, decide what you want to learn from them. If you go to a meeting knowing only what you want to say, that’s a monologue not a healthy conversation.
6. Hire a coach
As the founder of Healthy Conversations Ltd, I have extensive experience as a CEO in the not for profit sector and extensive experience of working with boards and with government departments. I work independently and with associates as a performance coach, facilitator and consultant to help people listen to each other and to develop shared goals which lead to action.