Why aren’t effective, trust-building conversations happening in the workplace more regularly? From where I sit as a former executive and now as a leadership development consultant and coach, there are three primary reasons:
- Technology has turned many people into automatons who use email, text, and social media as a replacement for authentic, thoughtful communication.
- It’s not rewarded and/or modeled by enough senior leaders, and thus does not pervade the culture.
- Most managers are uncomfortable with and/or ineffective at having conversations that fall outside the realm of triviality and/or praise.
How do we solve for these? At the risk of oversimplification:
- Stop hiding behind a keyboard and have face-to-face conversations, either in person or over a video-based communication platform.
- Be the change you want to see.
- Continue reading for a support tool for increasing your comfort level and skill with potentially difficult conversations!
Regarding No. 3, I conceived the GRIP model (as in, first “Get a Grip!”) specifically to help people prepare for tougher talks such as delivering constructive feedback. Whether you need to “get a GRIP” in advance of a challenging talk with a direct report, a colleague, your boss or even a client, it doesn't matter; you can employ this model.
It's useful for any conversation you know you need to have even though you don't feel entirely confident. Maybe you're not sure how you want to say it. Maybe you're not sure how the other person will react. Either way, it behooves you to do some preparatory leg work.
- G stands for Gather. Gather your thoughts, gather data and gather any other information you think you might need to be fully prepared. You may not need to present or discuss all of it, but at least you have it handy in your back pocket. This step prepares you to describe the situation objectively and calmly. Be able to explain the impact the situation had on others (i.e. you, teammates, clients, vendors, other stakeholders) in a business context.
- R stands for Responses. Think through the various reactions the other person is likely to have, and planfully formulate your response to those possibilities. Anticipate and prepare for different scenarios. Your responses are often natural opportunities to elevate feedback into feed-forward, making it actionable and relevant to future performance.
- I stands for Interests. Why is it in his/her best interest to get on the same page with you and/or take action based on the feedback/forward? Think through what motivates the other person, so that when you move forward, it will be considered a win-win. Consider both intrinsic and extrinsic influences that are known motivators for him/her. It's not as if you can offer extrinsic motivation in every conversation, such as "I'll give you or a corner office, a raise or a special parking spot if you agree to take on this challenging project" (extrinsic). Tapping into intrinsic motivations is typically more feasible for you and often highly appealing to the other person. For example, will he/she be able to master a new skill or utilize an underappreciated one, explore an expanded role, connect to a meaningful sense of purpose or gain more autonomy? Be sure to discuss such factors in a sincere way.
- P stands for Practice. We practice so many insignificant things in life, and yet we don't often take the time to practice in advance of conversations that can make or break careers or relationships. Practice these conversations before you dive in. Or before they sneak up on you and you can’t avoid engaging in them reactively instead of proactively.
Effective leaders build results-oriented cultures where people trust and respect one another. Such cultures absolutely cannot be developed or sustained without ongoing conversations of all varieties. When accomplished in this context, feedback is a gift, not only for the recipient but also for the whole team.
Shani Magosky is an executive consultant and founder of The Better Boss Project, which she developed from years of experience working with bosses at all levels and a desire to put a special focus on changing companies by helping people become better leaders – of others and themselves. Previously, she worked in three divisions of Goldman Sachs, managed a TV station, was chief operating officer of an all-virtual international marketing company and launched the leadership development consulting and executive coaching practice Vitesse Consulting, where she counselled a range of Fortune 1000 companies, tech startups, entrepreneurs, universities and non-profits across multiple industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.