by Randy Sabourin
I believe that the most important things that happen at any organization are conversations. They are the reason we innovate, collaborate, sell, lead, coach, change, succeed, or fail. A salesperson who struggles to have meaningful customer conversations, a leader who is misunderstood when implementing strategy, or a manager who prefers to avoid coaching conversations are all negatively affecting their organizations. Given its significance to success, why is it that most organizations and individuals take their ability to execute a great conversation for granted? Understanding how we communicate with each other and how we influence and collaborate should be discussed, taught, and – most importantly – practiced.
The fundamentals of a good conversation remain consistent across a variety of business and personal situations. Training programs in sales or customer service, negotiation, coaching, and leadership all contain the same foundational elements. These are often re-taught or re-invented by providers to package a complete solution. These programs require a detailed list of skills for participants to master. For example, when learning how to coach it is critical to understand many steps – or skills – such as establishing trust, setting an agenda, observing behavior, giving feedback, gaining commitment, and many more. It is important to receive feedback on these individual skills so that they can be understood and leveraged. In each program, the number of measurable skills to learn and practice can range from ten to thirty.
During an actual conversation, it is unrealistic, complicated, and even a distraction to try and recall every step within each process and program we have learned. Brain-based learning research tells us that when we are engaged in a conversation – listening, understanding new ideas, and adapting our opinions – we require a much simpler model to simply recall the various skills associated with the exchange.
There are four foundational elements that can be applied to business or personal conversations, and that are simple enough to stick. They act as an effective foundation for any communication-based program.