Updated: Aug 24
The Give and Take of Conversations
I had an introductory call with a CEO last week. After our introductions, his first question was: “Tell me about yourself and your work.” It would have been so easy to take his opening and start talking. My response: “Before I do, tell me a little more about your company. Tell me about what you’re working on and what’s important for our conversation.” He shared that he liked to turn the floor to others and was not consistent in making calls focused on his company. He appreciated that I turned the attention back to him. Our conversation continued on to be very engaging and relevant. It was relationship building and at the end, we knew exactly what the next step was. (This is strategic selling style). My turning of the conversation back to my potential client was a branding moment; he was able to experience my personality and what it would be like to work together.
Communication is at the heart of relationships
Adam Grant is an influential management thinker. I am a fan of his. I appreciate and use a number of his philosophies in my work. His book Givers and Takers is about how we interact and how our interaction styles have a surprising impact on success. One of his key messages that comes to mind for this post is his concept of people operating as either takers, matchers, or givers. If you haven’t seen his Ted Talk Are you a giver or a taker?, take time to watch it.
Are you listening or hearing?
I think we are all guilty of being in hearing mode rather than listening. Great communications need all participants to be listening, really listening. Our high use of video conferencing shows how easily we can get distracted in meetings. We are more easily distracted these days.
Remote work and virtual selling is demanding enhanced communication skills. The opportunity is to master being interpersonally savvy. Today’s conversations need leaders and sellers to be even more flexible and to use a broader range of interpersonal skills and approaches. Under stress the ability to be interpersonally flexible is constrained.
Pause and ask yourself:
What’s one word that describes your communication style?
How would others describe your communication style?
Relationships are essential to my success in business and as an executive coach. I have begun to worry that stress and the drive for results is taking relationships away from well rounded and productive interactions. Remote work demands more focus and skills on effective conversation skills.
Relationships are not one sided or one perspective. When you share on social media, this is an example of where you can express yourself and can choose to hear what you engage on. It can be one sided and controlled by the opinion of the person who owns the post. Social media does not enable good conversations. Another communication trend is the heavy reliance on the tell management style. I intentionally teach and coach using a leadership style (The One Thing You Need For Growth) for people management and results. If we take it from another perspective, email, texting and conference calls all potentially contribute to limiting communications and relationships. Great conversations are built with questions.
I have been part of very one sided conversations. One person dominates, i.e. one person is Taking The Floor, while one person doesn’t get asked for their input, to share or even get a moment to jump in. I’ve done experiments to test what’s happening in our communications to see if there are situations where a conversation can happen without truly engaging both participants. I used questions as a gauge of engagement. I was part of several conversations where I was not asked a single question. These conversations have me thinking more on givers and takers and how we are evolving in our conversations with one another.
I can help you work on interpersonal skills further for yourself and your team with my proprietary diagnostic tool. Your interpersonal mastery comes from self-knowledge, self-awareness and practice.
Yes, being a great communicator is tiring work and may take you longer to realize an outcome. I believe in a long-term approach to relationships and results. Great leadership, relationships and communication are foundations to realize your best potential and results.
Find out what your interaction style is
Communication is not merely talking... it's listening, seeing and being invested. - Janice Bryant Howroyd
Once you’ve read this post and done some self-assessment, I’d like you to sit back and watch several conversations. Observe the people that flex their style. Watch people who are able to converse with people who are not like them.
What’s the dynamic?
Your interpersonal mastery comes from self-knowledge, self-awareness and practice. No two conversations are the same so you’ll always be practicing and learning.
Here’s another of our resources on conversation best practices:
Lisa W. Haydon is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years of operational experience leading teams in banking, capital markets, technology and professional services. Lisa’s instinct for sorting through business complexities, understanding distinctive leader personalities, and realizing results compelled her to leave a corporate career and become an entrepreneur. Her company, Pivotal Growth, introduced a technology tool for leadership development assessment and planning. The suite of tools offers diagnostic capabilities to synthesize and accelerate people performance.
Lisa’s skills and the Pivotal Growth product help companies enhance their performance and support leaders achieving greater confidence and success.