Technology and workplace tools have advanced at an accelerated rate over the last decade, forever changing the dynamics of the Facilities Management profession. The FM Leader’s role has evolved to include much more than ensuring the lights are turned on and the air conditioning is running. While it is still about the facility, it is now more about the people who make up your workforce. Organizations and their FM teams who are seeking long-term success have done their homework and realize that a happy house, is a productive house, and directly affects the success of the company. What this means for today’s facilities manager is that they must know how to effectively communicate with those with their workforce, including executives, technicians, and outside vendors; as well as networking with colleagues from other organizations. Thus, developing exceptional conversational skills is essential for all FM Leaders. Do you consider communication your strong suit? Follow these 12 conversational tips to bolster your leadership skills and make stronger connections with your teammates and collaborators.
When having a conversation, it’s easy to get involved in thinking about what you’re going to say next, rather than paying attention to what the other person has to say. But listening is a critical facet to relationship building. Stop thinking and start listening. If you do, you'll have a much deeper and more meaningful conversation.
2. Don’t Interrupt
Interrupting is a sure sign that you are not listening to what the other person has to say. Many see it as a sign of disrespect. Wait your turn; there is plenty of time to make your point.
3. Think Before Arguing With or Correcting the Other Person
There is nothing wrong with having a healthy debate, it’s what makes us think outside the box and is often when the most innovative ideas are born. Before correcting someone, however, consider how important your point really is. The most powerful leaders intuitively know when to remain silent and when to argue a valid, meaningful point. Understanding it isn’t necessary to always be right is a critical leadership skill.
4. Don’t Monopolize the Conversation
Keep in mind the definition of “conversation” is “the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.” To ensure a healthy exchange of words, both parties must have enough time to express their thoughts and feelings. Don’t be that person that dominates the conversation.
5. Show True Interest in What the Other Person Has to Say
An important aspect of being a successful leader is realizing that there is always more to learn, regardless of your years of experience or knowledge base. Approach every conversation with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and enthusiasm towards what the other party has to add to the conversation.
6. This isn’t a Contest
Don’t focus on pointing out what you know, or “one-upping” the other person; it makes it difficult to truly listen and is a huge conversational turnoff. Remember, conversations aren't contests. Think of them as investments - you're investing your time getting to know another person.
7. Don’t Ask for Too Much Personal Information
People will divulge what they are comfortable with as they are ready. Let the conversation happen organically and avoid prying, especially when discussing sensitive topics. The more space you give them, the more likely they are to open up and trust you, which is the foundation of every lasting relationship.
8. Understand the Art of Transition
There is a true art to having a meaningful and informative conversation; and sometimes this means knowing when and how to move from one topic to another. Recognize when the right time is to switch gears in the conversation and how to transition to a new subject with ease.
9. Stick to Appropriate Topics
Appropriate conversational topics vary, depending upon the nature of the relationship. A discussion with a colleague you are just getting to know is very different from one with a close friend or family member. Avoid controversial subjects, sticking to topics you have in common.
10. Maintain Balance
Too much openness with a near-stranger isn't good, but neither is being too guarded. Open up and share enough about yourself for the other person to understand who you are. For example, it's okay to say you're a deacon at your church, so long as you don't begin to preach at them. Or, it's fine to say you're a family man, just not that you and the Mrs. are fighting over money.
11. Keep Things Positive
Part of maintaining balance in the discussion is understanding how and when to balance the bad with the good. Great conversationalists leave the other person feeling upbeat and positive. If an unfavorable subject comes up, it’s ok to discuss it, but shrewd conversationalist will soon steer the discussion back to something that makes you both feel better. Always add a silver lining to your cloudy conversations.
12. Maintain Eye Contact and Positive Body Language
I know, you’re having flashbacks to your childhood, right? But when your parents and teachers told you to “stand up straight”, “don’t slouch,” and “look me in the eyes,” they were teaching you the fundamentals of conversation and building relationships. Your body language and eye contact (or lack of) is a signal to the other person that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.
We live in an information-driven society, where we can find the answer to virtually anything with a few clicks on the keyboard. Despite the importance of technology today, there is something to be said for developing relationships and engaging in meaningful conversation with individuals on both a professional and personal level. Your ability to lead powerful conversations is directly tied to your strength in leadership. If you want to increase your influence in the workplace and find lasting success, you must perfect the art of well-balanced conversation.