Conversation Skills Development: Are they still important?
With the warp speed advances in technology, I wonder if we have lost the need to have face-to-face conversations? Technology can, after all, enable us to have more conversations, particularly when face-to-face conversations are not possible.
We can link up with someone over Skype or other media millions of miles away and talk to someone either via video link or on the old fashion telephone. Either way, we can have a conversation with someone we once couldn’t. But are we using email and SMS messaging and other technology when we ought to be having face-to-face conversations, in circumstances where that is possible?
I can recall two engineers working on a multidisciplinary project conversing via email when they were sitting facing each other approximately three feet away. The only thing separating them was a partition in a typical open office environment.
It’s quite humour really, when you think about it. They could have got out of their chair and in two paces have a face-to-face conversation. However, this scenario is happening across the world in every advanced country and in every industry.
The problem is this: We are exchanging emails and texts and communicating via social media, when we should be speaking in person. This is typically the case when we have bad news to discuss, such as a negative feedback on performance.
There is an emergence of conversation skills development courses, conversations skills workshops, and it’s a popular topic in executive coaching. But is it enough to build awareness of the importance of conversation skills?
Conversation Skills Development Courses
There are lots of programs and courses now on conversation skills development. While these courses and workshops undoubtedly have some usefulness, many participants are not taking the opportunity sit down and talk. Why?
I guess the answer is that it’s now so convenient to fire off a text or send an email. But the question is: Is this as effective as the face-to-face conversation? And in many cases the answer is: no.
- For starters, most technology is asynchronous; that is, we don’t always get an immediate reply to our text or email. The recipient responds when they are ready. This is not conducive to a dynamic conversation.
- Secondly, we can’t assess body language, and this limits our capacity to have a full and meaningful conversation.
- Third, it is much easier to seek clarification from someone we are in the same room as.
- Fourth, it is quicker to build (or loose) trust in face-to-face meetings. So, the old fashion face-to-face conversation still has a lot going for it.
Kouzes and Posner in their book: Credibility made the statement that “Leadership is a relationship.” I think that is a very apt. But my question is this: How does one develop a relationship, professional or personal.
And the answer is … one conversation at a time. So, this means that leaders can’t afford to not develop relationships with their team members and the vehicle to do this is one conversation at a time. Leaders need to be having regular conversations.
Conversation skills development is an important topic. Conversation skills development courses have an important role to play in creating a culture of conversation.
The most difficult conversations, as we know, are the tough conversations, usually around performance. They require a certain amount of skill development, no doubt.
Conversations Skills Workshop
We understand this at WINNER-at-WORK. Our conversations skills workshop cover 10 critically important conversations leaders must have. These conversations can be categorised as developmental and performance conversations. Specifically, the 10 conversations are:
- Delegation conversations
- Encouraging conversations
- Relationship building conversations
- Coaching conversations and
- Vision conversations
As a conversations skills workshop, participants are given the opportunity to practice these 10 conversations in the relative safety of the classroom. And the performance conversations we cover are
- Climate review conversations
- Strengths and talents conversations
- Opportunities for growth conversations
- Learning and development conversations and
- Innovation and continuous improvement conversations
I think it’s a fair generalisation to make that all effective and influential leaders make time to have regular developmental and performance conversations with the people they lead. They have a high level of trust and the reason for this is that they have good working relationships with their team members. And the reason for this it that they engage in regular conversations with each team member.
Conversations at work can be categorised broadly as task-related and people-related conversations. Organizations are conversations. Every day lots of conversations take place from the lunch room to the board room about a range of matters. The outstanding leader makes sure that not all their conversations are task-related. They truly live the viagra maxim that leadership is a relationship.
Conversation skills development courses can improve awareness and enhance conversation capability. But they are only part of a larger picture.