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Are you having conversations with your people?

Yes, I’m sure you’re talking to those you lead. You pass in the hallway and ask how their kids are doing. You meet at the coffee stand and chat about the struggle on their latest project. You have lunch once a month with the team. But are you having a real, honest-to-goodness conversations with the intent to connect, build trust and gain insights.

Leadership is about influence, influence is about relationships and relationship are all about the conversations you are having.

Having conversations puts you in a legitimate position to lead. Not only because you’re the boss, but also because you have influence. As you do this, you move from compliance by your folks to commitment.

Here is the framework for a 15 minute conversation with each of your direct reports. Start having this conversation every week and over time you’ll see trust and your ability to lead soar.

What have you accomplished since last we spoke? – Leaders spend far too little time acknowledging their people. Acknowledgement is often seen as an “atta boy” or some formal recognition; however this simple question and the interest that follows with these additional questions can open both of your eyes to the good work being done. Here’s some ideas on follow-up questions and inquiries:

“That’s great. Say more about that.”
“What can we all learn from this?”
“What or who contributed to the accomplishment?”

What challenges or decisions are you facing right now? – This question continues to express your interest in the other person, gives them a space to process what’s going on for them and ultimately could lead to action they weren’t expecting or not seeing as possible. This question and those that follow are a platform for their growth.

“Interesting. Say more about that/those.”
“What’s the outcome you’re looking to achieve?”
“What is your plan?”
(If they say, “I don’t know”) “What is the first step?”
“Who can help you?”

What can I help you with? – One of a leader’s jobs is to help remove obstacles out of the way for those we lead; however, the ball should be in their court and not yours. Let them decide where you can best help. It may not even be in the area you just learned about or they may surprise you with an honest, “I got this. Thanks for the offer.” If they’re stumped, share a perspective if you see where you might be able to help but quickly put it back in their court with another question.

Every element of this conversation is an inquiry. Listen deeply to what is said, be comfortable with silence and resist the temptation to tell or take the floor to share your wonderful insights or thoughts. As details emerge, ask specific questions that keep them sharing their perspective and let their brilliance shine.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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