Connected by Conversation by mikecogh
With all the travel that I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve learned how to pay attention to the people around me – how they talk, act and even how they carry themselves. I’ve watched people talk to their kids, negotiate a seat on a plane, ask for favors, etc. I’ve learned a lot about people just by observing and watching them go about their life. One thing that caught my attention during my recent trip was how people like to engage in a conversation. I was on a flight from Charlotte to New York City getting ready to tighten my seat belt as I heard the flight attendant talk to one of the passengers aboard the plane (I was just a few feet away to hear their conversation.) The passenger happens to be another flight attendant who is on his way to Europe for a vacation. What’s very interesting is that their conversation evolved from the trip itinerary to the strategic approach that the airline can undertake to improve customer service and satisfaction. In a previous blog post, I’ve highlighted how merchandise staff who didn’t even go to college talked about strategic positioning of products for increased sales. This is the kind of information that leaders value. But why isn’t this kind of information making it’s way into the boardrooms? Let me tell you why. It’s because upper management have not taken that extra step of engaging their staff in conversations. Do you remember one of those conversations you’ve had with your close friends where you kept talking yet they weren’t paying any attention? I bet you stopped talking when you noticed (or maybe tried to do something to get their attention back.)
Leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell said this in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Engaging people in conversations means more than just extracting information from individuals. It means paying attention to what matters to them. Even the small details matter. Sometimes, even as simple as listening could mean a lot. When we know that what we say matter to the listener, we’re more inclined to be open and speak more.
Leaders and managers have resorted to memos and emails to communicate their message to the organization. Unfortunately, this approach has created barriers in communication. As leaders, it is our responsibility to take that first step. Get out of your office, walk among the crowd and engage your staff in a conversation. Who knows, your next big product or service idea might come from the janitor.