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3 Engagement-Enhancing Conversations Every Manager Should Have

Source | EREMedia : By David Lee and Jacob Schneid

In Three Critical Conversations That Boost Employee Engagement, we described three types of conversations that provide managers with valuable information about how to bring out the best in each employee.

But, there are more conversations you need to have:

  1. The Expectations Conversation;
  2. The Aspirations Conversation; and, 
  3. The Preferences Conversation.

The Expectations Conversation

Just as you have expectations of your employees, they also have expectations of you as their manager. Think about yourself as an employee who has a manager. Aren’t there things you expect any good manager to do? Aren’t there things you WISH your manager would do, but they don’t?

These behaviors comprise the things you expect a good manager to do — or at least a manager who knows how to bring out the best in you, and with whom you would enjoy working.

Here is an example of how an Expectations Conversation might begin:

As that article I shared with you said, it’s important for managers to tailor their approach to each individual. I want to do that with each member of our team, so I’d like to get your thoughts on what you need from me so I can be the best manager possible for you.

Here’s an example of what I mean: one thing that I need from a manager is for them to get back to me with a timely response when I ask for something, and not require me to hound them. So that’s one of the things I expect from a manager.

So, what do you expect from a manager? Or to put it another way, what do you need from me to help you be your best?”

A more straightforward approach

If you think asking this question in this straightforward manner might be too direct for an employee, you can use a more indirect approach. You can ask, “What did you like best about your last manager?” or, “If you think about the best manager you ever had, what made them stand out?”

Referring back to a past situation will still give you valuable, actionable information. You are still learning about what works for that employee, but in a way that might feel safer to the more circumspect on your team.

Also, you are more likely to get useful information if you let your employees know prior to your meeting that you will be asking them this question, so they have time to reflect.

The Aspirations Conversation

Each employee has their own particular career aspirations. They also have advancement and professional growth aspirations within your organization.

Research by Gallup, Towers Watson and other firms has repeatedly shown that employees want to work for an employer that provides opportunities for professional growth and a manager who shows interest in their professional development. The Aspirations Conversation helps managers gather the information required to address these needs.

Questions you can ask as part of your Aspirations Conversation:

  • What are your career goals?”
  • “Where do you see yourself three years from now?
  •  “Where do you want to go in this company?”
  • What skills or areas of expertise are you interested in developing?
  • What professional development opportunities would you find most valuable here?
  • Are we adequately tapping your potential and what you’re best at? If not, what changes would you like to see?

As with the Expectations Conversation, providing employees with a chance to reflect on the questions ahead of time will help them generate more insightful, useful responses.

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