This fascinating HBR article Leadership is a Conversation talks about how leaders can connect more effectively with their people through adopting a conversational approach. While the main focus of this article is around corporate communication in global companies, the key points are relevant to leaders in any company who want to foster a culture of greater engagement, where employees feel their contributions are valued and their voices heard.
Organisational conversations should reflect the essential attributes of interpersonal conversations, where the feeling of inclusion can create trust, and develop the willingness to speak directly and openly. This involves at its heart the ability to cultivate the art of listening, and to be comfortable with asking questions instead of giving answers.
But how many leaders and managers actually do this as well or as often as they could, or should? The challenge is often less around the skills to do this, and more around mindset and attitude. A mindset that is built around the willingness to display a certain degree of humility, to set ego aside, and to feel genuine interest in what someone else has to say – whoever that is, and whatever they may want to say. For those willing to take that challenge, the reward comes through that person feeling valued for who they are and what they have to say, with the resulting boost to motivation, engagement and productivity.
For organisations where employee engagement may be low, or there is a disconnect between leadership and staff, it may be worth investing in supporting those in key influencing positions to develop better conversational sensibilities and skills.