Conversation Skills are Hard to Master
Having good business conversations matters more than ever.
Regardless of where you sit functionally in an organization (Sales, Finance, IT, HR, etc.), communicating the broader business values of what you’re working on to each other is essential for cross-functional success. “Elevating the conversation” to common business goals everyone can understand is a skill to develop. When you do, you can unite different groups to shared outcomes that, hopefully, help them work smarter, faster, and in greater harmony.
Yet, why do so many “business conversations” often turn into far less productive “discussions about business?”
I think it’s because effective communication is always complex and requires work. The cocktail of necessary ingredients – preparation, concentrated attention, skill in reading nonverbal cues, and the ability to be concise and reactive – is hard to get right every time. Plus, today’s time-crunched, millennial-rich, smartphone-themed business world doesn’t exactly breed and reward these skills.
How to Evaluate Your Business Conversations
A quick way to gauge the success of your business conversations would be to look for the following outcomes:
- Insight (tactical, strategic).
- Action (start, stop. continue, or change).
- Fostering deeper or new relationships.
All three are difficult to achieve. When any or all are, the business impact can be enormous.
Good, Great and Acceptable
Good business conversations lead to the insight that changes or shapes the thinking around a project or plan. These insights can be tactical or strategic. Small or large. They can also be more in-depth confirmation of the current way. Regardless, any conversation that provides a new approach, a new tactic, a new perspective, a new vendor, or a new tool to consider is an actual business outcome and one to strive for.
The challenge is you need an open mind. Hardly a given.
Great business conversations lead to action. A decision to start, stop, continue, or change made during a business conversation is arguably the most significant outcome you can have and quite thrilling to be involved in. You know you had a good business conversation when the decision-making is followed up with action.
The challenge is many meetings result in decisions without actions—the most frustrating outcome. The people in the room must have the skill and will to take action.
What if the meeting doesn’t generate any new insight-driven thinking or lead to any concrete actions, then what?
Well, all is not lost. There is always the potential to make new connections or deepen existing ones.
Business is people, and meeting the right people can completely change a project, business plan, or career.
One of the most satisfying business meeting outcomes has been introducing people in the same organization who didn’t know they were working on the same project and who later became close friends. You never know where a relationship will lead. So, for me, making new connections is an acceptable outcome of a business conversation.
The caveat here is not all connections are worthwhile to make.
Start on Monday
Start Monday evaluating your business conversations by their outcomes. If you see ripples of new thinking, decisive action, and new connections being formed after your meetings, feel good that your sessions are on track.
Remember, not all business conversations can be winners. As a colleague told me, “you’ll have to kiss a few frogs!”
The good news is communication skills can continually be improved, no matter how good you get. Each conversation is unique.
If you can, ask your colleagues for feedback.
- Did you listen?
- Did you follow the conversation?
- Were you clear, crisp, and on point with your comments?
The second set of eyes and ears can be revelatory for your development.
With a focus on outcomes and some coaching, you’ll be a better business person in no time!