Your success results from your conversations. Through conversations you sell your ideas, spread your influence, move things forward. And now, you’re not even in the same room with the people you’re talking to.
Especially during this time of social distancing, each conversation is an opportunity. That means it’s your chance to get clarity, to build a relationship, to collaborate, get buy-in, practice accountability, encourage yourself (and others).
It’s not just to share information, it’s selling your ideas.
A useful conversation serves a purpose. That purpose CAN be building relationship through chit chat.
You want more productive conversations and less blah blah blah. Also, you want a clear call to action. You want curated facts, not every single detail. You want people to get to the freaking point.
Here are 3 tools to make conversations useful and interesting.
1. Make it a scene.
Back in the day when young Dale Carnegie was teaching extroverted communication skills, famed Russian acting coach Constantin Stanislavski faced a crisis in the theater.
At that time, an actor’s job was to portray a certain scripted emotional cliché on the director’s command. That meant actors worked with a catalogue of specific gestures, facial expressions, body positions, and emotions that the actors would learn and perform.
Acting literally consisted of people reading their lines with pre-set, overacted emotions. Perhaps you have noticed this in those movies you wish you hadn’t sat through.
Your Objective and Your Super Objective
Mr. Stanislavski changed the craft of acting by developing these two tools:
- The SUPER OBJECTIVE is what your character wants more than anything from life throughout the film or play.
- The SCENE OBJECTIVE is what your character wants more than anything throughout the scene.
100% Better Conversations
Why not apply these to have more fruitful conversations? Think about it like the conversation objective and the relationship objective:
- The CONVERSATION OBJECTIVE is what do you want from this conversation? Deciding this objective in advance will make your conversations 100% better.
- Your SUPER OBJECTIVE is what do you want from this relationship?
You need to correct a report’s behavior. That means your CONVERSATION OBJECTIVE is to make him aware of what he is doing wrong. It’s also important to cover the impact of that behavior on others, and expectations moving forward.
Your SUPER OBJECTIVE is to develop this employee’s professional potential. So the SUPER OBJECTIVE informs your entire conversation. This forces you to be more thoughtful in how you express what needs to be said.
Action Point 1: Take the time to get clear on these 2 objectives before any significant message.
2. Deliver value nudges.
A value nudge helps you sell ideas. A value nudge can be a surprising statistic, a decree from top management, or a technology change.
The purpose of the value nudge is to keep focus on the benefit of what you’re saying to your audience. In other words, direct your comments to how your idea benefits the specific people you’re talking to.
I’m talking to someone in a virtual meeting, I’ve just e-met her and I want her to know enough about my business so that she remembers my name and a little bit of what I do.
After asking her what she’s excited about these days, I share that I’m excited about something. It’s a new coaching results measurement tool I’ve come up with. Then I deliver the value nudge…(which is why this tool has value for her or others).
“Did you know one of the biggest barriers to adapting a coaching culture in a company is the lack of measurement tools?” In my experience, I found that asking certain questions before and after coaching someone leads to useful metrics to measure coaching outcomes.
Value Nudges Sell Your Ideas
A value nudge could be something your team recently accomplished.
Or…in the example of giving feedback, the value nudge is reminding the person of your SUPER OBJECTIVE, of why this feedback is personally and professionally relevant to the employee.
It’s easy to think this value is obvious. Think about how motivating it is when a spin class instructor reminds you of the fitness benefits of the pain you’re feeling in your legs.
Action Point 2: Depending on the length of your message, prepare some 3 benefits to your audience of what you want to say. These don’t have to be life-changing effects. Mention a small and specific way your feedback or message is relevant to your particular audience.
Preparing these value nudges helps you sell your ideas.
3. Lean on positive interpretations.
There are two main things to know about positivity at work. One is that the research points to overwhelming benefits of optimism and positivity in a leader’s communication. A positive interpretation results in greater resiliency and creativity (that was a value nudge, by the way).
Developing strong positivity muscles helps you see that any setback is temporary.
A positive interpretation to any situation is not to deny the problem, but to acknowledge that the problem can be solved. The potential is there to make things better than before.
Consider the case of two managers who lose their jobs. Positive Paula believes this is a chance to get some rest and then pursue the possibility of a career change. Negative Neal gets caught in a cycle of binge-watching GoT, ordering pizza and drinking beer. Which of these two is more likely to be immersed in mediocre conversations at work the next day?
Action point 3: The next challenge you face, probably in the next 3 minutes, ask yourself, “What is the best possible outcome that could result from this problem?” After some effort conjuring possible attractive solutions to the situation, look at is again with fresh, positive eyes and see what pops into your field of vision.
If you get an email that seems rude, consider the person was just in too much of a hurry. You can always pick up the phone to clarify things.
Now is the time to have a better conversation.