Have you ever had the same conversation over and over again because an undesirable behavior or outcome failed to change? Perhaps it’s with an employee who consistently misses deadlines, promises to do better, then continues to be late. Maybe the conversation is with your kids when they don’t do their chores (again). The good news: you can stop this vicious cycle today by making a few simple changes.
One of my presentations last week at an international fire chiefs’ conference was called “Stop the Insanity of Public Safety Conversations: Change the Context.” In it I offered four simple techniques to help change unproductive conversations to productive ones – i.e., those that change an undesirable status quo. Although I can’t guarantee that you always will get the outcome you want, I can say they will get you out of the unproductive rut in which you find yourself. Bonus: the techniques work both inside and outside any kind of workplace.
Technique #1: Ask positive questions
Sample scenario: A project for a major client goes terribly wrong. Which set of questions is more likely to enable your team to devise a productive solution to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
Technique #2: Change the question
Sample scenario: Executives at a retail store known for its exceptional customer service must cut costs. Which question is more likely to result in a thoughtful conversation about how to ensure the store retains its stellar reputation with customers?
Technique #3: Change the context or focus
Sample scenario: Despite all their training and discussions of why safety is important, some employees at a manufacturing plant still take shortcuts that jeopardize their safety. Which area of focus is more likely to result in a conversation that changes that behavior?
Technique #4: Change the level of the conversation
Sample scenario: A department manager consistently misses scheduled meetings with his employees, causing them to make embarrassing mistakes due to the delay in conveying important product information. Which example below is more likely to correct this undesirable behavior?
Note: sometimes having the “content” level of conversation is enough to get the desired behavior; other times it’s necessary to have the “commitment” level of conversation. My experience is that it seldom is necessary to escalate the conversation to the “relationship” level.
Each of the four techniques described above can save you from the insanity of unproductive conversations. Choose the one that’s most relevant to the situation at hand. While it may not get you everything you want, at minimum it will result in a more productive use of your time and better results than you have experienced.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of using positive language, take a look at our article The Transformative Power of Appreciative Language. To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com
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