Managing Performance with Effective Conversations
This blog will be easier to understand if you read it a couple of times, and then I trust you’ll find the information is very helpful.
When you are communicating with another person, the most important aspect is safety – yours and theirs. One way to improve their hearing is by ensuring their personal safety when they are talking with you. Pay attention to the volume, tone and other nonverbal messages you are sending during the conversation. Pick the time and the place to have these important conversations to help ensure they are successful and what you intended. I encourage you to write down what you want to say to your employee – and practice saying it out loud to another person. This is what I have found works best for me!
When we communicate with another person there are actually two areas of the brain that need the information. One is the left brain – the conscious mind; the other the right brain – unconscious brain. We are built such that, when we receive information, we want certainty, meaning, and purpose. We need to know that we are on the right track and that what we are doing supports the larger efforts of the organization. The mind filters and interprets every message it receives. When the message is unclear, ambiguous, or incomplete, the mind fills in the blanks, and will find the evidence or distort the information and the reality, to fit our beliefs.
What’s the solution? Is effective communication possible? Yes – you just have to talk to the conscious mind – the left brain – to be understood AND talk to the unconscious mind – the right brain – to have it remembered.
- The conscious mind wants structure and order, whereas the unconscious mind remembers feelings and subjective experiences.
- The unconscious mind has huge capacity for storage – the conscious mind, not so much. This is why we remember feelings and experiences, but forget what was said.
- It is essential to leave others with positive experiences because when everything else fades, they still remember how you made them feel. How people feel when they walk away from a discussion or meeting is stored in the unconscious. This includes feelings such as inspired, deflated, upset, angry, encouraged or demoralized.
When you communicate to both sides of the brain, people will not only experience positive feelings and experiences, but also intellectual buy-in. When you provide positive experiences, the mind will fill in the blanks in a positive way. If the listener has high regard for the speaker, he or she will adjust all information to support this view.
Give the Conscious Mind Structure and Order
- Say what you mean: Be clear and concise. Keep it simple and straightforward.
Example: I want to help you see what is going well with your performance and what needs to be done differently.
- Emphasize what is important: Highlight critical messages and key points. Focus only on one or two. Keep it bite-sized.
Example: There are two specific areas that need your attention. One is an area for celebration. The other is an area that needs some work.
3. Be specific about expectations: Clearly communicate what you want and include a “by when” time frame.
Example: I want a written plan by end of day on Tuesday.
Why it works: When you provide order and structure for the conscious mind, people listen to what you are saying, rather than searching for your agenda.
Give the Unconscious Mind Positive Experiences
- Focus on positive outcomes: State your outcome in positive language. Be specific.
Example: Our outcome is to ensure you are being successful in your job so that this company can be successful.
2. Talk in positive language: Reinforce what you want such as to improve efficiency rather than avoid inefficiency. Go towards the positive.
Example: Our first tasks are to ensure you understand what you need to do differently and secondly decide how I can help you make the changes necessary.
3. Create positive feelings: Express how you value the person and the relationship.
Example: Your work makes a tremendous difference. I appreciate your energy and commitment.
Why it works: When you provide an encouraging focus and leave people with positive feelings, it raises spirits and morale. People want to feel good.
When speaking with the employee, it is important that both of you discuss and agree upon the desired outcomes before you both decide on the solutions. It’s also important that both of you contribute to the desired outcomes and to the solutions. No one likes to be told what they “should” be doing.
This framework provides direction to the conscious mind. Begin with the end on mind. Always define where the conversation is headed. If you don’t give the conscious mind what it wants – direction and focus – it will wander. Beginning with the end in mind will stop the conscious mind from searching for the agenda. People will relax and be more receptive to your message.
Given we are not all speaking the same language (think of the many meanings of the word sex), it is important to not only check for clarity but also check for assumptions along the way. Asking others to summarize your message can be a great test for all involved. Of course important conversations like these cannot be rushed or conducted in a public forum or where there are lots of distractions. Who said this was easy?