Find Your Conversations



There is so much to get done today. And, in the middle of your rushed morning where the line for coffee was too long, you just remembered that project you needed to finish by the end of the week (yikes!) and there is that lingering feeling that you should debrief with your direct report about her presentation to the Executive team and her career goals with her recent promotion.

With two very different topics to cover and a time crunch – how do you not lose the conversation?

We asked three expert Coaches, with over 50 years of combined experience coaching Middle Managers and Executives what their most effective strategies are on how to have more meaningful and effective conversations with direct reports. Let’s meet these Coaches and see what they have to say!


Now, for the good stuff!


 Mary: So, what is a “meaningful “conversation? I believe that a meaningful conversation will differ from one person to another, depending upon their situation, values, and perspective on the issue or opportunity. What is common is that a meaningful conversation creates a feeling of being heard and respected, motivates the person to take action (which might be a new and/or courageous activity), acknowledges and reinforces values, and overall results in a feeling of fulfillment and energy. This is a “two-way conversation” where both parties contribute, listen, and co-create what needs to happen.


Scott: One comment related to effective communication techniques is the importance of first being clear in your own mind and then articulating to the recipient the purpose of the communication, e.g. is the intention of the communication to positively reinforce desirable behavior or is it to provide constructive feedback to modify/improve undesirable behavior? It is critical that those two different types of messages not be combined during the same conversation because it diminishes the impact in both directions, diluting the motivational benefits of positive feedback and undermining the importance of required behavior change. Further, it puts at risk the perception of others regarding your managerial courage and your ability to have difficult conversations when required.


Karen: I have often recommended that the Managers ensure that they schedule 1:1’s with each member of their team to talk about their career interests and personal drivers/motivation (i.e., what’s important to them personally). Sometimes Managers make assumptions without taking the time to have a more meaningful conversation with each person. This process also helps to build the direct report’s trust with the Manager.

To prepare for the conversation, I will sometimes suggest that Managers track their time for a week or two. This helps them to gain a clearer understanding of how they spend their time – and thus, consider what they might be able to delegate to members of their team.


Mary: A strategy that Managers find effective is to use open-ended questions in their conversations that begin with “What” or “How” rather than with “Why“. What is the difference? The “Why” question causes people to analyze, explain and defend their position because the “rational left brain” has been engaged. Questions that begin with “What” or “How” engage the right brain and enable people to consider broader and more creative possibilities as well as the bigger picture. From here there is a greater willingness to explore what is needed going forward rather than defend a current position.

Thanks for your insights on conversations Mary, Scott, and Karen!

So, how do you find your conversation today?

3 thoughts on “Find Your Conversations

  1. Pingback: Thriving on Encouragement | Middle Seats

  2. Pingback: Developing Others | Middle Seats

  3. Pingback: Asking Empowering Questions | Middle Seats

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