5 Conversation Tools
to Deepen Trust, Build Relationship, and Boost Engagement
by Kat Schulte | January 2024
One of our favorite sayings at AG Collaborative is: Your people are your secret sauce. I believe that with my whole heart and the entirety of my experience. But sometimes that secret sauce can feel hard to access – maybe you see the potential, but doubt you are really getting their best. As we enter 2024, we invite you to carve out time to plan how you will develop your team this year. Below, you will find suggested rhythms and tools to deepen relationships with your people. As your relationships deepen, you will see increased levels of trust, engagement and overall productivity.
Gallup has, thankfully, conducted some – or rather HEAPS of – research on this topic. They have identified 5 Conversations that Foster Teamwork in the Workplace to maximize their impact. I love how this approach identifies and clarifies interactions with your people.
In this blog, I provide resources to empower you to have each of these conversations. We want you to feel that stepping into these rhythms and interactions are doable and actionable. HERE is a PDF with the tools mentioned in each section below. Let’s dig in.
#1 Role and Relationship Conversation: The Foundation for Performance and Development
In this initial conversation with your people, you align on expectations for their role, how they fit into the larger organizational picture, and goals towards their success. It is immensely helpful as a leader in this conversation to have awareness and language around your unique approach and perspective. Knowing who you are colors your expectations and your style enables you to provide more clarity for your people.
It is also helpful to know your team member’s greatest talents and assets in order to select goals that best utilize what they are bringing to the table. Using the language of CliftonStrengths can be a great resource in this conversation. By unlocking both your strengths and that of your team, you will have a shared language and framework.
#2 Quick Connect: Engaging Conversation
Quick connects are informal human connection points – think water cooler or coffee pot chats. These conversations are summed up well by Theodore Roosevelt’s sentiment: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While the naive person may refer to these casual connections as “fluff”, the seasoned people leader knows that these connections are the literal glue that holds a team together. Without them, engagement and motivation plummets.
If you don’t know where to start, we have gathered a list of questions to have in your back pocket, check out the Quick Connect page. Better yet, print it out and keep one of these pages for each of your people. As you get to know each person on your team, keep this file updated.
Use the Quick Connect page as a guide.
#3 Check-In: Discuss Priorities and Progress
The check-in is the more formal 1:1 many managers are familiar with. A solid rhythm for these check-ins is at least once a month for 30-60 min with each of your people. These check-ins are excellent times to get progress updates and ask about barriers to the goals and priorities of each team member.
These check-ins offer a natural way to hold accountability on goals – i.e: “did you do what you said you would do last time we met? And if not, what kept you from doing so?” – as well as a great opportunity to offer coaching and mentoring through obstacles.
We’ve included a PDF called The Check-In to keep notes from check-in to check-in. A faithful holding of these check-ins, on your part, will help your team feel supported and provide them with progress towards their goals so they feel motivated and engaged in the work. If you could use some support interacting with your people around their obstacles and struggles, try some of the questions from this powerful questions document to get them thoughtfully exploring their issue.
#4 Developmental Coaching: In-the-Moment Feedback
This fourth conversation is all about providing your people with meaningful feedback – in real time – that they can use to develop and perform. This requires us as leaders to be paying attention to our people as well as a willingness to share with them what we see. The importance of this type of feedback cannot be understated. Employees who reported receiving “meaningful feedback” in the last week also reported being engaged at a rate of FOUR times higher than those who did not receive meaningful feedback in the last week (source here).
But what makes feedback “meaningful”? And how do you offer feedback to your team in a way that they will hear it? These are questions that can feel sticky for leaders.
#5 Progress on Goals: Achievements and Future Growth
This final conversation invites your people to reflect on the past and paint a vision for the future. You will want to connect with your people in this way every six months or year. In addition to other performance review items you cover with them, this conversation offers your team the opportunity to celebrate successes, name challenges, and set the tone for the season ahead. This conversation enables you to tap into what matters for your people in the near and long term and align on the what, how, and WHY of their next season of work. This conversation can leave your people feeling supported, invested in, and excited about what is ahead for them and the team.
Use the ten questions as an outline for this conversation. You can provide these questions to your people ahead of time and ask them to bring their responses to your meeting, or you can ask them live in your conversation.
An invitation to START SMALL
These 5 conversations can be a LOT to initiate all at once, so, start small. Pick one of these conversations to put into practice. Once that rhythm is established, select another. Team culture is built over the long haul – think marathon, not sprint.
Slow down, pace yourself, and be present with your people. You’ve got this, and here at AG Collaborative we’ve got your back.
Let’s Get Your Managers On Board
If you are a people leader and think “this sounds great, but how do I get my team on board?” We are here to help.
Check out our Manage Like a Boss program to hone the human skills needed to lead people well.