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Nigel Purse

The Oxford Group


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Key conversations effective leaders have

Good leadership is about knowing what to ask and when.

Half of us have quit a job, at some point in our lives, because of inadequate leadership from our managers. This can manifest in a plethora of different ways, but it is surprising how many of these problems could be solved with appropriate conversations between the boss and the colleague. Here are the sorts of dialogue that should be going on in the workplace.

Establish trusting relationships

Building a trusting relationship with each of your colleagues is integral to professional efficiency on everyone’s part, so you must take time for each of your staff to individually know that you care.

Miscommunication of expectations is one of the most common causes of tensions in the workplace.

This may happen when you first interview them, or at reviews, but it should happen with frequency. It is helpful to strip away the work agenda when doing this, and ask them open-ended questions about something important to them: this may be a hobby you know they have, or simply enquiring about their lives and wellbeing.

The main thing is to show genuine interest in their endeavours: maintain eye contact, listen to what you’re being told, and react.

Agree mutual expectations

Mutual expectations are a crucial step to keeping everybody happy and on the same wavelength.

Miscommunication of expectations is one of the most common causes of tensions in the workplace.

Employees are liable to feel inadequate, as if they have let the company down, if the results they achieve turn out to be different than you had intended. Similarly, leadership teams may get a false impression of an employee’s lack of skill or passion, damaging their reputation.

All of these issues can be solved by giving a detailed outline of what results are expected from a task, and having the employee agree to them.

Show genuine appreciation

Don’t forget that your employees are essential to you and the success of your company, they should not be thought of as expendable or inferior. So when they complete a job well, make it known that they have done well and are a credit to the company.

You must do this both privately and publicly, as acknowledging a person’s contribution to the rest of the team fully validates their work, and motivates others to do the same. Even if you cannot afford to hand out bonuses to high performers, find other ways to sincerely thank them for their work.

Challenge unhelpful behaviour

You know the saying, ‘if everybody around you seems insufferable, it’s probably you’?

This issue can crop up plenty in a business setting, and when these particularly difficult people are in roles of authority, it can be tempting to tell their teams to adjust, rather than to tell that person to change.

It doesn’t matter what their role within the company - if somebody is having a negative impact on those around them, it is important that this behaviour be identified and rectified.

There are plenty of training materials that can help employees to reevaluate their attitudes and approach to work.

Building for the future

This tends to relate back to the first conversation you should have. You put yourself - and by extension, the company - in the strongest position in the future by having a good idea of what to expect.

This doesn’t apply only to industry trends and stability of the economy, but to the individual aspirations of each employee.

Some may have settled and plan to spend the rest of their career with you, while others will be intent on progressing their working lives and moving on to other things. This should never be taken as a slight - it is just the nature of business - but if employees plan to spend a certain period of time with you, or hope to rise through the ranks, everybody benefits from your understanding of this.

It ensures that individual careers and the company as a whole are moving in the directions people want.

Interested in this topic? Read Soft skills: the four cornerstones of a great conversation.

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Nigel Purse


Read more from Nigel Purse

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