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By Jeff Stafford, Consultant
During each day, there are many opportunities to create Great Conversations. Through conversation, we find connections with others. It's a way to build relationships and get things done; it's also a way to find meaning and purpose within ourselves. A Great Conversation is one in which there is give and take, mutual understanding, and a shared responsibility. Creating Great Conversation is an art—an art that anyone can learn.
Think about one of the last really great conversations you had:
There are a variety of Great Conversations that can take place. This article will discuss three of the most common conversations in the areas of work and career. The first one is often the most easy to avoid.
A common saying is: “How do you eat an elephant? You start by taking the first bite.” That's what you need to do in a difficult conversation. Take the first bite—not literally, but in the figurative sense. You do need to start some place.
When faced with a difficult conversation, your place in the conversation is essential to its outcome. Do you come from a place of fear—a place where you feel attacked, unsure of what's next, or even betrayed? It's easy to throw up the defensive coat of arms and ready yourself for battle. In the end, that will probably not achieve your goals.
Your place must come from curiosity—from a profound desire to seek and understand.
According to Ed Batista, a leadership coach at Stanford University, there are four tips on starting the difficult conversation.
Last summer, I had a chance to meet Harvey Mackay, the networking guru. This is a man who knows (and teaches!) the art of creating Great Conversations through networking. Networking isn't just about shaking hands and exchanging cards. Rather, it's about relationship building. Conversation
a key aspect in relationship building. Mackay asserts that the time to dig your well (build your network) isn't when you are thirsty (looking for a job), but now. Engaging in the Networking Conversation is simple. It's simply making connections with people you want to know. While these may be people who are able to help you in the next phase of your career, more than that, they are people that you are creating relationships with through the art of conversation.
The Networking Conversation has a simple formula: Ask. Listen. Share .
People enjoy sharing their stories. When you meet someone, ask a question that allows them to begin their story. This engages and encourages the person to share what's important to them. “How did you get started in your field?” “What do you enjoy most about the work you do?” “What's the secret to your success?” are critical questions. After you've heard their story, it's time to share a bit of yours. Here, and only here, is when the more-than-formal ritual of the “card exchange” occurs. This is your pass to continue the Networking Conversation and build the relationship even further. Be sure to ask how and when you should follow up.
This conversation is about enhancing your current job skills, knowledge, or abilities. Too often, we become complacent in our daily work routines. To keep engaged and build your skill set, seek out new opportunities within your current job to keep you moving along your career path—these are referred to as development activities.
Before initiating this conversation with your manager, have a keen sense of where you are AND where you'd like to be. Identify work-related interests that you would like to enhance and that will contribute to the mission of the organization or your department. The Development Conversation is about building on the skills you already have. To help you prepare for this conversation, complete the Development Conversation Worksheet (pdf).
Once you have reflected on these questions, have the Development Conversation with your supervisor. Follow these simple steps:
Here are a few more resources to help you initiate Great Conversations in your workplace: