From formal reviews to casual chat, different types of business conversations call for different approaches. By setting the right tone, you reduce directionless meetings, avoid miscommunication and make conversation a means to progress, rather than a blocker.
Today, there is less tolerance for poor communication at work. A 2020 report shows that mismanaged conversations lead to more customer losses (33 percent) and missed deadlines (30 percent) as compared to data from 2016. If your business meets these growing communication expectations you're more likely to see better results.
Have these conversations in person or over video conference, following an agenda, with a goal in mind.
1. For recurring process conversations, choose an informal tone coupled with a structured format. If ten or more people are involved, establish a cadence so each person has an opportunity to speak within a short timeframe of two or three minutes.
2. If you're coming up with ideas, create an environment where everyone can speak freely. Use positive reinforcement, encourage people to speak and take a tip from the theater: 'yes, and...'.
3. In a decision-making conversation, adopt a clear, certain tone of voice. Explore, choose and commit to those choices - get this all in writing.
Have these conversations via calls and meetings, and then again in a written form of communication like email. People outside of your business have their own communication preferences, so be safe and say everything twice!
4. When collaborating, use an active and dynamic tone to bring everyone together. Employ active listening skills - a conversation is as much about what you're doing when you're not speaking as when you are.
5. During a negotiation, mirror the tone of the person or people you are speaking to. Studies have shown you have a higher chance of efficiently reaching an agreement using this technique.
6. When trying to close a deal, be respectful and avoid 'salesy' hype. State what you're not willing to do and, of course, where you're happy to concede.
Personal development conversations
Have these conversations on a 1-1 basis, providing resources and follow-up material over email, file-sharing software or instant messenger.
7. When hiring and interviewing, keep your conversations formal, but friendly. It can be disconcerting if an interview is far removed from what an interviewee has anticipated, for example, if you create an overly casual atmosphere.
8. If you're working through training with a person or team, be the expert in the room. Convey confidence around the subject matter and encourage questions.
9. When goal-setting with an employee, be aspirational. Ask about their vision for their career and offer paths to get there, outlining the challenges they need to overcome and what support is available.
These conversations all require you to choose your communication channel based on if the subject matter is serious or casual. Choose wisely!
10. When engaged in a difficult conversation, like a disciplinary, be sympathetic, but firm. Outline the problem, listen to other party and then work through next steps to resolve the issue. If possible, use a face-to-face format, recorded as necessary.
11. If delivering good news, be upbeat; if delivering bad news, keep it neutral, or - where appropriate - empathetic. Pick your delivery mechanism depending on the urgency or gravity of the news, and try to use a format that allows for feedback. New hire? Announce it on IM! 🎉
12. In day-to-day conversation, be professional, friendly and supportive. Whether you're providing a quick update or an offer to help, the more you engage, the easier it will be to collaborate. Consistent conversations like these build vital relationships in your business.
Did remote working kill the conversation?
In a word: no. We have the technology to stay connected, as long as we put in the effort to use those tools to communicate effectively. In a world where working from home is the new norm, no matter the type of business conversation, match your tone to your tech.
For efficient, everyday chat, use a secure instant messenger like Trillian for Business.