At its core, business is simply a network of interconnected conversations. And the health of a company can often be gauged by watching the interactions between employees and their leaders.
In toxic companies, conversations are usually destructive and leave people feeling disconnected. In healthy companies, the conversations create environments where workers feel heard, mirrored and validated.
According to Dan Prosser, entrepreneur and author of Thirteeners: Why Only 13% of Companies Successfully Execute Their Strategy, here are “connecting conversations” that supervisors should be having regularly with their employees:
1. Conversations that encourage contribution. Employees want the chance to make a difference—to contribute something meaningful to the company’s outcome and be appreciated for it. "When you assign responsibility and allow people to provide solutions that you actually put to use, they wouldn't think of leaving,” says Prosser.
2. Conversations that convey acknowledgment and appreciation. Handing out “good jobs” and “thank yous” may not come naturally, but the rewards will greatly outweigh any discomfort.
3. Conversations that encourage alignment. In aligned companies, everyone pulls in the same direction. There’s minimal confusion. There are no territorial disputes, and everyone looks out for everyone else. "When people are aligned, they understand the business goals and the role each goal plays," says Prosser. "They recognize there must be alignment for their efforts to affect the bottom-line success of the company."
4. Conversations that build accountability. When employees are being accountable, they make specific promises to take action to accomplish goals. Everyone sees everyone else's promises, and there are no secret deals to undermine the effort to keep those promises. And, of course, those promises are kept. The results of people's actions are fully measured, and everyone's contribution is visible. As Prosser puts it, "In a culture of accountability, everyone is 'count-on-able.'"
5. Conversations that facilitate continuous communication. Make sure your employees don’t find out about essential information accidentally or after the fact. It shouldn’t reach anyone first through gossip or the grapevine. When possible, strive for proactive transparency.
6. Conversations that build relationships. "Nothing meaningful happens unless, first, there is a relationship between the two people working together," says Prosser. "Two strangers might have a problem starting the conversation necessary to getting the issue handled—even if they work for the same company. But two colleagues with an established, positive relationship can get the ball moving quickly and without misunderstandings. This is how connectedness cures a host of ills."
7. Conversations that underscore responsibility. When most people hear the word "responsible" in a workplace context, they assume it has to do with blaming others for what went wrong. But for connected companies, being responsible means taking the initiative to do what is necessary to get the job done. Make sure employees know that they have permission to take the initiative. Then, ensure they have the resources and support to do so.
The bottom line: It doesn't matter how great your product or service is if your people can't connect effectively and positively. Encourage these conversations to inject more connectedness in your workplace.