This guide gives 7 steps to help with having productive conversations at work.
The Importance of Productive Conversations at Work
Productive conversations at work are important for ensuring everyone’s time is used effectively, and that resolution is being obtained. Each discussion that happens at work should have a goal as to what needs to be accomplished for that conversation to be fulfilling and successful. It is also important that the essential details and action items are recorded and/or scheduled so they are not forgotten or missed. As for personal conversations, they should be held during personal time – not company time when we are on the clock.
Here are some of the key differences between a productive and unproductive conversation:
Steps for a Productive Work Conversation
Step 1: Prepare for the Conversation
a) Figure out the resolution you are trying to seek from having this conversation. Answer the question “what is the goal I am aiming to reach by having this discussion?”
Note: It is not productive to start a conversation with the goal of simply mentioning a problem. If you are bringing up an issue, make sure you also think of possible solutions to offer as ideas for resolution.
b) Ensure you have all the information and details that you will need.
c) Think of examples you can explain to help with the discussion.
Step 2: Manage Emotions
a) Make sure all parties involved are in a good emotional state to be able to participate in the discussion. It may help to directly ask if they are in an okay place mentally/emotionally to have the conversation.
Note: People are unable to retain information or seek a sound resolution when they are in a heightened emotional or reactive state.
Step 3: Give Context
a) Start the conversation by telling the other person (or people) the context. This should answer the question of why you are speaking with them.
Note: If you realize the context of the discussion is personal and not work related, offer to have the discussion on personal time such as during lunch or once the workday is done.
Step 4: Be Direct
a) Get straight to the point.
b) Be honest.
c) Use direct communication. Don’t be passive-aggressive.
Step 5: Be Specific
a) Offer any details on the topic of the conversation that are relevant and necessary.
b) Ask if they need any more details than the ones offered.
c) Offer examples if they would help to create more understanding on the subject.
d) Answer any questions they have and ask if there are any questions.
Note: It is important to ask if they have any questions, as some people may get caught-up in the discussion and forget to ask questions for clarification. This will also help them to feel more comfortable to ask questions.
Step 6: Confirm the Resolution that was Reached
a) Confirm that the original goal of the conversation was achieved, or that resolution was met. This can be done verbally in person or written and sent in an e-mail.
Note: It is important that the resolution is agreed upon to ensure there is mutual understanding.
Step 7: Document/Plan Action Items
a) Document important points from the conversation. This could include taking notes or sending an e-mail to communicate the important details to others that may need the information.
Note: To ensure the productive conversation stays productive we need to make sure we don’t forget the important details by recording them in some form.
* Check out our Meeting Notes template to help with this step!
b) Schedule/plan any action items that resulted from the discussion. This could include adding to a to-do list, or scheduling in an electronic calendar.
Note: Make sure to create an e-mail invite for others that may be involved in the task!
A Step Closer to Productive Conversations
The 7 steps above are meant to help with getting the most out of work conversations and meetings as well. Preparing, providing context, managing emotions, being direct and specific with our words, confirming the resolution, and planning out any action items will help guide us at least one (or 7) steps closer to productive conversations at work!
Download this resource Guide for Productive Conversations at Work.