How to Get More Out of Every Conversation

The art of leading a productive and enlightening conversation is at the essence of success. Whether you’re conducting a job interview, talking to a client, or working with your team, you need the power to get as much out of every conversation as you can.

You need to inspire, to be purposeful and clear, to obtain and share quality information, and to connect on a human level—all of which needs to happen naturally and in as few words (of yours) as possible.

Here are a few key points you can apply to nearly every conversation you have, amplifying your impact, takeaway, and position.

Who’s at the center?

Leading a quality conversation doesn’t mean you become the focal point. Most of the time, if you position the other person at the center, you can make a greater impact. You can make the other person think you’re the most interesting person in the world, or they can leave the conversation feeling they are the most interesting person in the world.

Which would you prefer? Be honest with yourself.

While you might impress some people by espousing your thoughts, experiences, and opinions, it will do little to help you connect with and learn from them. This brings us to a critical point: setting your intention. If you want to lead a conversation where everyone goes away with your opinions and ideas swirling around in their heads, then sure, get on your soapbox and talk away.

BUT, if you intend to get information from someone while also connecting with them personally, then your focus should be on them.

Listening to hear, not to speak

Imagine a microphone: the only thing that comes out of it is what is said into it. Having a conversation with someone who spends their time waiting to speak is like becoming a microphone for the other person. It’s not fun. Or rewarding. Or engaging.

It’s just exasperating.

So how do you avoid being the person who only listens long enough to find an opportunity to speak? The first step is slowing down. Remind yourself why you are having the conversation. Ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain. Then ask yourself how you’re going to get there. I promise you, the answer isn’t by talking.

Learn how to ask questions

While you’ve known how to ask questions since you first learned to talk, it doesn’t mean you know how to ask the right questions.

Let’s look at two similar questions and see how they evoke wildly different responses:

  • Did you feel happy when you got the new job?
  • What was it like to get the new job?

One quick way to stop a conversation in its tracks is to ask leading or closed-ended questions. These are questions that push the response in a specific direction and simply require a yes or no answer.

What would you say if someone asked you the first question? Probably something like, “Yes, I did feel happy!” While that isn’t a bad answer, it doesn’t leave room for you to add anything else. The answer sits within the original question: “Happy,” prompting no additional thought or introspection

Now think about answering the second, open-ended question. There’s no obvious response. Your answer could go in many different directions, allowing richness and depth to develop within the discussion. Those are the types of questions you want to be asking if you’re looking for value.

Don’t resist the awkward pause

While no one loves to sit in silence, learning to do so comfortably can create something amazing. Think about the landscape of your conversation as a jumble of marbles on a mattress. You go from one marble to the next in a sometimes straight, sometimes meandering line. But there will always be marbles that don’t get picked up. 

Now, think about silence as a bowling ball put down in the center of the mattress. The ball’s weight creates a physical pull on the outlying marbles, coaxing them to roll into the dent left by the bowling ball and into the center of the conversation.

Give your conversation some intentional bowling balls. Make way for those stray thoughts or shy opinions to be pulled to the center and realized.

Move with purpose

As you practice leading conversations that produce real value, help you authentically connect, and make progress, take the time to reflect. After an especially frustrating or exciting conversation, stop and go over what made it successful or not. This process takes self-awareness, intention, and purpose. Take your time, work at it, and watch as each interaction you have becomes more valuable, impactful, and satisfying.

 

Photo by rawpixel

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

If You Care About ROI, Follow This Strategy

When you measure progress within your organization, you don’t do it by checking off each individual activity done by your team. You do it by looking at how well you’re accomplishing your overall company goals. So why do we often approach projects from the opposite direction?

A common mistake that leads to loss of ROI and efficiency stems from our human need to get swept up in the details. Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting all the details right, but details shouldn’t be first in the pecking order of priorities.

For progress to happen, you need to measure your activities. But without goals and a strategy, you can’t measure anything accurately. If you don’t have a solid plan of alignment, you won’t prioritize what actions and details need the most attention.

The flaw in quick solutions

As we’ve all learned in the last year, crises happen, and they can happen overnight. Organizational pivots can be spurred by internal and external events within your market, industry, or location. With varying levels of success, businesses responded to shifts caused by the pandemic by implementing new technology, changing processes, and rearranging priorities.

Even outside the pandemic, it’s incredibly easy for organizations to implement “solutions” to their problems, creating more friction. For instance, many organizations struggle with data duplication because they use different systems to track their prospecting and sales, marketing, and client management. The result is a chaotic mass of unusable data that provides extremely limited information to those who need it.

Here’s how to ensure your organization avoids this type of costly mistake by changing your approach to problem-solving.

Stepping back

Before you decide to implement a solution for a problem, start by following these steps.

1. Identify your core goal

Your goal should be in the context of the result you’re looking for, not the solution. For instance, “We need a system to help us manage our prospecting” is an example of a solution statement. A goal statement looks more like, “We want to make more informed decisions around how we manage our prospecting and have a smoother handoff between prospecting/sales and client management.” Starting with the goal statement stops you from identifying possible solutions before you’re ready and keeps the door open to make connections between this goal and other related goals.

2. Review department alignment

If you want to save time and resources, spend time reviewing how this goal might affect other departments; specifically, determine if it aligns with issues cropping up in those departments. In the case of data duplication, if an organization approaches marketing, sales, and client management as separate tasks, they miss what it’s all about: the entire customer experience.

Suppose they approached this issue with a broader lens. In that case, they could implement a tool to combine each of these activities under one system, resulting in no data duplication and a smoother transition between the customer journey stages.

3. Identify your KPIs

If you’re interested in measuring how well a solution is working (which you should be for several reasons, ROI aside), then identify core KPIs you can use to track a tool’s success. Keep them measurable, attainable, and specific.

To continue with the example used above, KPIs for this type of solution might involve:

  • Increased customer retention rates
  • Increased closed deals
  • Decreased time for client onboarding

Refer back to your goal statement to help you identify the results you hope to achieve.

Don’t skip ahead

If you find a new tool that seems excellent, great!

But stop before implementing it.

It’s easy to get excited about a solution without first clarifying your goal. Who doesn’t like to nerd out about new solutions? But if you don’t have processes in place to stop new solutions from being implemented before completing these steps, you’ll end up wasting time, money, and resources.

These steps should be followed for nearly every activity, process, and solution your organization implements. So even though you’re excited, stop, take a step back, and make sure you cover these bases before running ahead with your new solution. The results will be far more impactful, efficient, and sustainable.

 

Photo by Flamingo Images

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Kicking Ageism Out of Your Workplace

Ageism is an established problem HR departments battle. Laws and organizations have been founded upon the need to protect workers from ageist practices. A report by Glassdoor in 2019 found nearly half of respondents in the US had witnessed or experienced ageism in the workplace. It also found that younger employees, aged 18-34, were more likely to witness or experience some form of discrimination in the workplace. In the UK, for example, 48% of adults (aged 18-34) experienced ageism in the workplace, in contrast with 25% of employees aged 55+.

You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought ageism was about older employees?”

Here’s the deal.

Ageism is about senior employees, but it also encompasses young employees. It’s as easy to assume an older employee won’t know how to use new technology as it is to assume a younger employee can’t handle the responsibility of important work.

To protect your workplace from ageist policies, attitudes, and culture, take these steps.

Use your words carefully

A lot can be conveyed by how we talk to one another. What feels like harmless turns of phrase can make a considerable impression and convey held biases we may not be aware of. For instance, referring to a younger employee as a “kid” can mean you view them as a child. Think about what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Words conveying a dismissive, slighting, or negative connotation can pop into our vocabulary without much thought but can do serious harm to an employee’s experience.

Think before you ask 

One incredibly unprofessional, but common experience young employees have is to be given irrelevant tasks. For instance, an employee in their twenties just out of grad school gets called into their boss’s office. Instead of getting a real assignment, they’re asked to pick up the boss’s cat and take it to the vet. Oh, and while they’re at it, pick up some cat food from a store across town.

Passing off personal tasks to young employees, often with the title of Assistant, is unfortunately all too common. These behaviors show a lack of respect for the employee’s experience, skillset, time, and contribution.

Review your demographics 

One way to spot ageism in your workplace is to evaluate the demographics of the people on your team. For instance:

  • Do you have a predominantly young or old team?
  • Do people in your field tend to be older?
  • Do you discount younger professionals because you don’t think they can handle the role’s responsibility?
  • Do you assume older people within the field won’t be as agile or technically capable?

Your workplace demographics are a great place to start when looking for patterns in your hiring practices that might be weeding specific demographics out of your talent pool.

Where you offer opportunities

Beware of assuming the only people who want growth opportunities and new training are younger employees. Development programs, unique and challenging opportunities, new tech, and strategy shouldn’t belong to only one demographic. Ensure you offer these opportunities to your team equally, providing room for growth and development to everyone.

Don’t get complacent 

Ensuring your workplace is both in compliance and a positive environment for people of all demographics takes commitment, effort, and diligence.

This isn’t a conversation you should have once and move on. Diversity, inclusion, and anti-discrimination should be an ongoing conversation and priority for business leaders across industries. Train your managers to catch their own biases, recognize ageist practices and mentalities, and address it when they see it. Teach your employees to do the same and build a system that acknowledges and responds appropriately to employees who speak up.

Creating a safer, more inclusive environment won’t just protect you from lawsuits but protect employees so they can flourish and grow within your organization.

 

Photo by Viacheslav Iakobchuk

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Driving Growth with Purpose

Keeping employees engaged is a constant worry for leaders. There are many ways to address engagement in the workplace. Benefits, company culture, and professional development are some aspects of the employee experience that drive engagement. But if you look at engagement from a personal—even emotional—level, there’s something deeper at play.

Think about the last time you became disengaged with a project. What was the deriving factor behind your disengagement? More often than not, we become disengaged with our work because we feel it doesn’t matter. We become disengaged with our roles when we lose our sense of purpose.

That deep human need to feel valuable, of use, and appreciated—to feel like we matter­—plays a central role in whether or not we give our 100% at work or if we slowly decline and become less and less interested in our contributions.

While creating a supportive company culture, good managers and fair compensation can make a huge difference in employee engagement. It’s important not to leave out this simple yet critical part. You need your employees to feel like they matter to you, your organization, and your customers. 

So how do you do that? Try these steps.

Ask them about their career goals

Whether an employee is just starting or has been with your company for years, engaging them in a discussion around their future and interests can make a serious impact. By doing so, you can:

  • Align their aspirations with your goals for the future of your business. Maybe their interests lie in learning a new set of skills your organization could use!
  • Show them you acknowledge their individuality, path, and personal trajectory outside of your organization.
  • Get them thinking about how they can grow within your company—creating a path to a good future for both them and your organization.
  • Help them realize the work they’re doing will play a part in their future opportunities.

Recognize, recognize, recognize

And the more often you do it, the better.

Did an employee write a great email? Tell them. Did a team complete a project without any hiccups? Celebrate it. Tell your managers to watch the individuals on their teams and identify and celebrate their particular strengths. When people feel seen, they put more intention in their actions. Appreciation goes both ways, so make sure you’re not stingy with yours.

Make your organizational goals personal

A great way to foster purpose is to help your employees see their role from a broader perspective. Engage them in conversations about the future of the company. Ask for their advice and input on how things could be better, and center all of this around your organizational goals. Help your employees see how their role is essential to your organization’s success.

Consider having interdepartmental check-ins where each department talks about how they rely on one another. When your company meets a goal, celebrate your employees for making it happen.  

Be flexible when you can, where you can

Employees have lives outside of your organization. They have families, personal goals, friends, doctors’ appointments, and mental and physical health to manage. So, when an employee approaches you for help, be it flex time, extra time off, or medical leave—supporting them to the best of your ability can make a lasting impact on their loyalty and engagement. They’ll feel valued and taken care of as individuals, and that will translate to how they see themselves as employees.

Some employees expect to be resented for taking time off—and in many cases, it’s true. They fear losing their jobs, their position, and their standing. Show them it’s safe to be human and that you have their back.

It can be challenging to find effective ways to make employees feel seen and valued, but the effort is worth it. It will foster strong, loyal relationships and a sense of value and purpose for everyone. This value will translate into high-quality work, dedicated employees, and a culture and brand that will attract, retain, and drive talent.

 

Photo by Vassiliy Kochetkov

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Four Ways to Spread Gratitude Within Your Organization

Gratitude can be the simplest and most direct way to foster an organization of employees who feel valued, engaged, and driven by purpose. A thousand studies exist detailing how employee recognition can reinforce employee loyalty and boost productivity—but it’s just common sense when it comes down to it.

If you tell your employees how grateful you are for them, you’ll see them find greater purpose in their roles, dive deeper into their work, and have them feel like their effort matters. It’s the same in our relationships. Ignore what someone does for you, or feel ignored yourself, and those relationships will suffer.

With the holidays upon us, now is a great time to work in some gratitude to your weekly to-do list. Try these four ideas to get the gratitude flowing.

1. Share it

One great way to show an employee some gratitude is to share it on social media from your company page. Boast about their talent, what they’ve done for your organization, and how grateful you are for their hard work. The public nature of this form of gratitude makes it all the more valuable. You aren’t just telling all of your employees and your followers about them, but you’re speaking to their entire network. By building someone up publicly, you’re:

  • Displaying a beautiful part of your company culture for all to see
  • Celebrating someone on your team who deserves the applause
  • Setting an example of what you value within your organization that others can emulate
  • Publicly demonstrating your company values

While this type of gratitude is simple and doesn’t take a ton of effort on your end, it can mean a lot to an employee who wasn’t expecting it. Have fun with it and remember to spread the love to more than one employee.

2. Make it a team effort

Peer recognition can be a wonderful thing. But how do you encourage it within your team? Consider creating a company-wide recognition program where colleagues nominate one another for different prizes. The prizes don’t have to be big—it’s the thought that counts for these types of things. It can be a fun way to get employees thanking each other, and to foster a sense of team spirit and camaraderie.

Weave the announcements into a spot at your annual holiday party, in your company newsletter, or at monthly team meetings. It’ll be a fun way for employees to build each other up and celebrate one another’s contributions.

3. The gift of cash

You might know the saying “cold hard cash”. For most people, receiving money is neither cold nor hard (especially if it comes attached to a handwritten note or a heartfelt message). In challenging times (which this year has definitely served us), pure compensation can make a real difference in someone’s holiday. For instance, their spouse may have lost work due to the pandemic, or they might have a sick child, or they may have lost value in the volatile stock market. Whatever the case, cash can be an effective way to give back a little of the value you received from an employee. If you don’t have extra cash to give out, consider including a note with their holiday bonus (if they receive one) or a gift card to a store.

4. The gift of time

Another great way to show appreciation is to provide employees with an extra day or two of PTO. Spending extra time with the family or going on a fun weekend trip goes a long way in boosting employee energy and engagement. Having time to rest and do something fun can be one of the most valuable gifts for employees who are used to working hard just to get those few extra days off.

However they choose to use their PTO, they’ll associate the free time with you and the gratitude you showed them.

Don’t hold back

Showing gratitude never gets old.

You can’t overdo it.

You can’t thank someone enough.

You may never know the extra hours your employees put in under the radar on projects, or the late nights they spent making something perfect, or the customers they went out of their way to please. Employees do this on their own, often without people telling them—and displays of gratitude keep them going above and beyond for you. Gratitude opens up a two-way street, where thankfulness flows back and forth, driving loyalty, satisfaction, and purpose.

 

Photo by christianchan

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners