By: Brady Wilson
How much of your energy does conversation consume?
Business leaders tell me they spend over 80% of their day in conversation.
That’s more than three-quarters of a work day spent in meetings, video conferences, teleconferences, phone calls, and email conversations!
That leaves only 20% to do all the other critical tasks required of a leader. But what if your conversations are depleting your energy to get those tasks done?
Every day, you have two types of conversation. One is a major energy-sucker. The other keeps you and your employees invigorated, refreshed, and able to focus on other important things.
So what are they—and how can you do more of the latter?
Repair vs. prevent conversation
Imagine you’re considering implementing a new process in your organization.
As you’re introducing it, people are nodding their heads and giving the corporate salute; however, your “spidey senses” tell you some people have deep concerns about the process.
You decide to ignore your spidey senses; you’re driving this process forward, regardless!
Three months go by—and the process is stalled in its tracks. Why? People have been covertly or even overtly obstructing its implementation.
You now need to invest a lot of time diffusing resistance and cynicism, untangling suspicion and misunderstanding, and (hopefully) get your project back on track.
In an alternate universe, you pay attention to your intuition from the very beginning. Well before implementation, you ask questions to draw out people’s misgivings—identifying and addressing the real source of discomfort before it takes on a life of its own.
Your next course of action is based on the feedback you receive—with little to no resistance on the part of others.
Emotional toll of conversation
Repair conversations sound exhausting, don’t they?
It takes ten times the psychological energy to recover from a misunderstanding than it would have taken to prevent it.
When you are frequently trying to put out fires, this can have a huge impact on your ability to predict outcomes, be innovative, make smart decisions, and execute on tasks—or, in other words, be a true leader.
And not only that—repair conversations are exhausting for all involved parties. This does nothing to improve or sustain employee engagement.
Turning it all around
If you feel you’re spending more time in firefighting mode than anything else, learn from brain science: conversation, done effectively, can eliminate the need for repair conversations—and actually be a natural energy booster.
The key words above, though, are "done effectively."
To implement an ongoing system of energizing, preventative conversation into the workplace, the following three criteria must be met:
- Conversation must be face-to-face. It may not be always possible, but face-to-face conversation is best for energizing others. Science shows that, when put face-to-face, leaders’ and employees’ emotions can be “contagious”—essentially, each person can regulate the other’s emotions (and, subsequently, energy levels).
- Conversation must be meaningful. Leaders must ensure they demonstrate value, respect and care within the conversation—paying close attention, acknowledging what the other person is saying, and showing genuine interest.
- Conversation must be frequent. This criterion is especially important for eliminating the need for repair conversation. Concerns talked about only at engagement survey time (i.e., once a year) eventually snowball into “crucial” or “difficult” conversations that take up multiples of energy, time and mind-space. Frequent conversations help catch issues before they become calamity-based.
No time to talk?
Many leaders say they don’t have time for face-to-face, meaningful, frequent conversation. Well guess what? They are already engaged in conversation 80% of the time—and suffering ongoing energy depletion as a result!
By making short, simple, everyday conversation a natural priority, leaders eventually realize that they don’t have time NOT to do it.
Why? Because by removing the need for repair conversations, this frees up more time—and personal energy—to focus on other critical aspects of the job.
In other words, now is the time to make the shift to a workplace that prioritizes preventative conversations.
Brady is an author, speaker and the founder of Juice Inc., He works with leaders to build the conditions in which innovation, value creation and unforgettable customer experiences can flourish.