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7 Mini Conversations to Have with Your Team

By Lea McLeod (1331 words)
Posted in Management on January 14, 2014

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I am rarely shocked anymore when a client tells me they aren’t clear on the key deliverables of his or her job. Or that they don’t have regular conversations with their manager. Or that the relationship is difficult. 


As a manager you must be able to deliver results by working with and through other people. So part of becoming a great manager, is developing good relationships with your employees. Relationships are how work gets done in today’s workplace. 


One way to build relationships is through conversation. Whether it’s a formal town hall meeting, or a casual lunch with a group, use these conversation starters to share and reinforce expectations, and build a framework that makes working together as seamless an experience as possible. 


7 Mini Conversations to Have with Your Team 


1. The Most Important Accomplishment You Hope To Achieve In This Job

This conversation will give your team insight into your short-term motivation, which will give them a better idea of what their goals and objectives should be. 


Managers, unfortunately, aren’t always clear with employees on their goals and plans, but if they understand a bit more about what you are focused on, they can better prioritize their own responsibilities and position themselves – and you - for success.


For example, perhaps your organization is in the middle of an acquisition and your goal is to create a smooth transition for the newly merged department. With that information, your team should be aiming to help you succeed in that, whether that means spending time refocusing on this new project, or rearranging the deck chairs to accommodate new team members.


2. Your Career Goals

While similar to conversation #1, this discussion will give your team insight into your long-term goals. Do you want to be a VP by age 35? CEO by 50? Do you want to start your own business one day?


Knowing your long-term plan will help them understand why you might make certain decisions. For instance, maybe you volunteer your department for a project that doesn’t seem important to them, but it puts you squarely in the visibility of top executives—which could put you in the perfect position for a promotion.


By having insight into your goals, your team will better understand why you manage the way you do, instead of having them question your strategies.


3. What They Can Do To Make You More Successful Today (Or This Week, Month, Quarter, Or Year)

This should be a discussion you have on a regular basis—because your team should always be trying to make you as successful as possible. It is their job!


When you’re able to get them a straightforward answer to this, they’ll be able to focus their energy in the right places—because they’ll know exactly what tasks need to take priority. 


4. One Thing They Could Do Differently That Would Help You

Having clear expectations is the key to delivering winning performance—and this conversation is a surreptitious way to share those expectations. 


For example, if you tell someone you’d like them to make more of an effort to actively participate in meetings, you’re telling him that you value a collaborative environment of ideas—rather than coming up with every initiative yourself. And knowing that can help your team better meet your expectations, rather than being frustrated by your mysterious behavior.


5. What Should They Know About Your Work and Management Style

Do you expect your team to be available 24/7? Respond to emails on weekends? Are you a screamer in intensely stressful situations? Do you want loads of spreadsheets or one slide with the bottom line?


Sharing this straightforward information may not give your team all the answers (i.e., if you’re a micro-manager you may not readily admit to micromanaging). But even if you share just a tiny bit of insight, they’ll have a better sense of what to expect and how to handle it. That will help both of you, big time. 


6. How You Like To Get Feedback From Your Team

You won’t agree with your team, or specific team members, on everything. But they should not have to simmer in frustration because they are afraid to give you feedback. So present your expectations in the right way.


The inability for employees to openly share feedback with their manager is one of the most frustration inducing situations in the workplace today. 


Tell your team how you prefer to get feedback. They’ll be much more willing if you share what works for you, whether that means scheduling a one-on-one meeting, rather than catching you off guard in a hallway conversation.


Once your team knows how to deliver feedback to you, they’ll be much more prepared to ask for what they need: Whether they’d like more frequent updates on deadlines, regular one-on-one time, or faster responses on decisions, it’s important for your team to be able to feel comfortable making these requests of you. 


7. Why Did You Hire Them?

When someone gets a new job, they’re often so excited that they forget to ask why they were selected over all the other candidates. 


But this is an important point to share, because it will help them hone in on exactly how you believed they would make the team better. Then they’ll know the area in which they can truly shine, run with their talents, and give you updates on how they are doing.



By helping your team spend some time in your shoes, they’ll be much more prepared to help you succeed. Even if this job is not the job of your dreams, there is still a tremendous amount of teaching, learning and growing to do. Hopefully these 7 mini conversations will facilitate that process.



{#/pub/images/LeaMcLeod.jpg}Written by Lea McLeod, M.A., Founder of The Job Success Lab- Lea empowers employees to make more money, have more time, and find more meaning in their jobs. She spent most of her career leading and managing global teams, and most recently served as Director of a $1.3 B program at Hewlet-Packard. Now, she helps others discover the “success factors” for their careers. The Job Success Lab is a suite of tools that helps your employees become more effective at what they do. In working with clients, Lea discovered some interesting stuff. People struggle in dealing with their managers – Big Time. And, they struggle with the basics: effective communication, difficult conversations, advocating for themselves, and getting out of work on time by focusing on the most important work during the day. She helps employees like yours get more out of each day, and make each day better. Which makes managers better. And more successful. She holds a degree in Marketing from St. Bonaventure University, and a Master of Arts in Organization Development from Seattle University.


Do you have a question for Lea?  Post it in our Middle Manager Community, she will be happy to help: Ask An Expert 


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