Do you value chit chat? Perhaps it is because of the way we were schooled, but many managers today believe that silence is golden – the golden sound of productivity. While most of us understand a chat during our breaks is essential to staying sane, it might be a surprise to discover that talking is important for the bottom line as well.
Research shows that friendly, social interaction can improve our problem-solving abilities. It can also boost wellbeing and happiness. Good conversation is a core indicator of a healthy, engaged and connected team. So how can you, as a leader, get the conversation flowing?
Stop talking yourself
That might seem counter intuitive, but holding a space with your listening invites other people to share. In 2016, people coach Diana Brooks said that managers do 80 per cent of the talking with their team. This sets the wrong tone and create a silo of ‘yes man’. Give your team the chance to get a word in.
In his book Quiet Leadership, David Rock suggests you can teach employees to think proactively by asking leading questions. Ask questions such as, “If you were leading this project, how would you move forward?” and really listen to the answer. Invite contributions from other team members with body language rather than words.
Talk at work doesn’t have to be about work, to matter to work. We all know how important wellbeing is to productivity. Use conversation to help your staff feel seen and valued. Ask people how they are, learn a little about their personal lives and follow up on their achievements. ‘How did your son’s softball game go?’ is just as important a question as ‘how is that project budget looking?’ when it comes to supporting your team’s engagement at work.
Schedule it in
If you are an office-based team, water-cooler moments might arrive organically. But if you are a remote working team, or you are based in a non-office environment, then it pays to make time in the day to talk. Add a ‘water cooler’ channel to your team Slack or a ‘conversation card’ to your Trello. Give your team a chance to banter and then build on it by making time at the start of meetings, or having a weekly group lunch, to share those stories face to face.
Let it go!
Once people start talking, just let the words flow. You never know where a conversation will take you. A funny holiday story could evolve into a new project management idea, a joke about your kids sports day might launch the next great sales strategy.
Step back, make time for conversation and allow it to flow in an environment your team know they have permission to talk in – and see what happens. Sparkling conversation will make any party, and it can make your day at work as well.
Sign up for our Team Leader Essentials or Leadership Essentials (ELEVATE programme) for emerging and current managers/leaders for more tips on how to talk to your team, and get them to talk to each other.