How to talk about what matters the most at work

Hi I’m Nicola from The People Mentor and in today’s podcast, I’m going to look at how to talk about what matters the most at work. 

Think about the range of different conversations you have at work. They can be anything from a quick hello at the water cooler to having to have a difficult conversation with a team member. 

You might not think that every conversation you have in the workplace is important, but it is. Every interaction you have with someone else can impact on your relationship with them and how people see you as their manager. 

Conversational skills are often overlooked in management training, but it’s so important. 

From the short ‘Hi, how are you?’ type conversations to the ‘We need to talk about your performance’ ones, they can all become more meaningful and effective with practice. 

So how can you make your conversations more meaningful and talk about what matters the most at work?

I’d like to start with some general tips. 

The first one is don’t just talk about yourself. You’re more likely to make a connection and have a meaningful conversation with someone if you focus on asking about them, their ideas, concerns, and feelings. We’ve all had a conversation with someone who only wanted to talk about themselves, and it doesn’t exactly inspire connection. 

Another important thing to remember is that you don’t just have to talk to your team members about work. Talking about things like hobbies or maybe books or films they like can help you find out what you might have in common so you can build a rapport. This is also a good way of warming up before a meeting starts and you have to get down to business. 

Listening is really the key to any conversation. Yes, you might be desperate to share your ideas, feelings, or points of view, but listening can actually help you. If you’re a good listener who has meaningful conversations with people, you’ll be more likely to get people behind you on things. 

So listening is important. That means not having your phone or any other distractions going on. It also means listening to someone’s tone of voice and paying attention to their body language. 

And if you’re someone who is already considering what you’re going to say while the other person is talking, get out of that habit. Learn to listen carefully then pause and consider your response. 

Asking questions is also a really good way to show that you’re engaged with what they’re saying and you can also discover information you might have missed. 

If I’ve already mentioned some points you feel like you need to work on, I’ve got a challenge for you. The next time you have a conversation at work, make it more meaningful by trying these things:

So first, don’t multitask when you’re speaking to someone. A University College London study found that the brain struggles to focus on sounds and visuals at the same time. So put down your phone, lock your computer screen, and give the conversation your full attention. 

Next, make a point of watching someone’s body language. Does it match what they are saying? A lot of the time observing body language helps you understand what someone is not saying. 

Another way to make the conversation more meaningful and ensure you talk about what matters the most at work is using reflection to show that you’re listening and you’ve understood what the other person has said. 

Use statements like:

“ So what you’re saying is…” or “ It’s interesting that you feel…” 

Try using open-ended questions too, which allows you to get the information you need as well as letting the other person express their thoughts and feelings. 

Ask things like:

How did you feel about that?

What do you think should have been done?

What’s also really important is listening without planning how you’re going to respond. We’re all guilty of this. So next time someone is speaking, wait until they have finished then take a pause to consider what you’re going to say before you respond. It’s less likely to be reactive and more likely to be well thought out. 

This brings me to the next point about thinking before you speak. While as a manager, the temptation is to spoon-feed team members solutions to problems, it can be more meaningful if you show empathy but allow people to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions. 

For example, in a performance review, a team member might tell you that they are struggling at work because their relationship is breaking down. 

Definitely show empathy and concern, but avoid giving unsolicited advice. Instead, say something like “ I’m sorry to hear that, it sounds like a really tough situation. Have you thought about what you’re going to do? Is there anything I can do to help you at work?” 

Yes, you’re there primarily as a manager, but considering the amount of time people spend at work, personal issues will impact you. 

Remember that your team members are people, and they have lives outside of work, just like you do. 

So, every now and again, make the time to ask people how they are, what their interests are, and other things that might help you find common ground for a meaningful conversation. 

This may seem like small talk, and it can be. However, as meaningful as talking about what books someone is into can be, it’s important to respect other people’s time and your own. 

Don’t use small talk as a way to kill time or allow it to distract from what you really want to talk about. When you’re having a conversation, use the time wisely and focus on how you can really help each other out. 

And remember, when you’re having a conversation with someone in person, it’s not going to be the same as when you’re communicating digitally. A lot of the art of conversation has gotten lost in digital interactions that are a few lines long. They make us feel like we’re connecting, but we aren’t. 

Real-life meaningful conversations take practise, and they don’t always happen straight away. Just keep working on your own speaking and listening skills. 

So we’ve looked at the how; now, let’s look at the why. Why should we focus on making conversations meaningful and ensuring we talk about what matters most at work?

Well, I think that meaningful conversations can help team members learn, grow, and feel challenged. Think about situations where there are different points of view on something in the team and you’re trying to reach a consensus. If team members feel challenged at work, it can really improve engagement. 

Meaningful conversations can also energise people. 

I’ve been in lots of situations where having a meaningful dialogue has energised people by introducing them to different points of view. They’ve often left conversations better informed and more connected with other members of the team. 

Then there’s the fact that they give people an opportunity to share ideas, thoughts, and opinions and in turn, listen to others with more of an open mind. This is great for innovation and collaboration in the team and the wider workplace. 

Just don’t forget that meaningful conversations aren’t only work-related ones. How much better would you work with and relate to others if you knew and understood a bit about their values and what makes them tick?

Think about your team members; how much do you really know about them? Apart from things like what they’re doing at the weekend, do you know what books they like to read? Whether they have any hobbies? What else do they like to do in their free time? 

Knowing your team members on a deeper and more meaningful level can only translate into a happier and more productive workplace. 

There are many reasons to focus on making your conversations more meaningful at work, even if you think a particular conversation isn’t significant. 

As a manager, you can start trying to make talking about what matters most at work the norm. 

Engage with your team members on different topics from current events to anything else you find interesting. 

Create the space to talk about important and meaningful issues like mental health, to show your team that doing so is encouraged. 

Make a point of welcoming diverse ideas and opinions and practising active listening without judgement. Lead from the front in encouraging this and hopefully your team will follow your example. 

In truly meaningful conversations, no opinions are discounted or dismissed and people listen twice as much as they talk. 

If you apply this approach to workplace conversations, you can create a productive and welcoming culture where great work gets done and good people stay. 

How meaningful are your workplace conversations?

Have you mastered the knack of creating a great place to work where people have great relationships and where diverse ideas and opinions are welcomed?

If this is something you’d like some help with, I’d love you to get in touch. 

We’re coming to the end of this episode of the podcast, but before I go, I just wanted to tell you all about my new Manager’s Academy membership. 

If this podcast has got you thinking about how you could turn things in your team from good to great, it could be exactly the thing you need. 

I call it a ‘3-month roadmap to success’, where every month you get invaluable tips, online videos, training, and templates as well as weekly surgeries to talk about team issues, a monthly virtual training session, and access to an online community for support. 

I’ve spent over 33 years leading and managing teams, and when you sign up for this membership, you’ll get some invaluable information and knowledge, as well as the benefit of my experience. 

If you want to develop your management and leadership skills and get on the fast track to team success, you can find out more about joining my great value membership and the amazing benefits that come with it here

That’s all for today’s podcast, I do hope it’s given you some food for thought. 

Until next time, this is The People Mentor, signing off.

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