Six steps to confident conversations for managers and teams

Being confident and positive in our conversations with colleagues, customers, suppliers and stakeholders will ensure we are able to manage every situation that comes our way in a constructive, appreciative and empathetic way.  This will reap dividends for everyone concerned; being able to manage any conversation we have at work efficiently and appropriately will ensure a more enjoyable and productive working life, allowing us to thrive and achieve our goals and aspirations as we provide reassurance and certainty for those around us. 

Preparing yourself carefully for the different conversations you need to have with others is much easier to do with our six-step model which can be used as a guide to help you maximise upon every opportunity to shine and provide excellent service, whatever comes your way. Here it is, in essence:

Step 1 – Be in a calm and positive state of mind

Give yourself the best chance of success by managing your emotions and behaviour before you start by checking in and asking yourself, where am I emotionally … am I calm and positive? Am I ready and prepared to embark on this conversation with purpose and clarity? If the answer is no, then it’s important to take a breath and make sure you take the necessary steps to move yourself into the right mindset to really listen to the customer or colleague so that you can respond positively and with confidence, whatever the situation may be. Having an element of control or influence and the ability to consciously self-manage our emotions is motivating and powerful.

Step 2 – Be clear on the goals

When we are clear on our goals it is much easier to keep on track and to bring others along with us. It’s also important to consider what the other person’s goals might be and how they are hoping to achieve them, as this helps us to come up with the most appropriate solutions to help them and address their specific needs in a positive and timely way. Having as thorough an understanding of the situation as possible prior to the conversation will add to your confidence in driving things forward to a positive outcome.

Step 3 – Possible solutions, options or alternatives?

Think about the goals you have identified in Step 2 and what obstacles you may encounter if the situation requires you to come up with alternative and unexpected solutions. It’s important to take a moment to consider carefully the solutions you can take ownership and responsibility for, including the things we are able to do as well as other aspects the customer or colleague might be able to do to help themselves. It’s beneficial for everyone concerned when we encourage others to take ownership and responsibility where relevant, too!

Step 4 – Step back – who, what and when should you influence?

If you are preparing for a conversation where you need to influence someone, take a moment to consider your timing and method of approach. If you’ve had contact with them before, would they respond better to an email or a phone call? What other information have they had from you or the company, and does what you are about to say fit into their experience of the company to date? It’s vitally important to check through any notes and history to see if there are any other things that may be ongoing that you should be aware of. Taking time to prepare and avail yourself of all relevant facts and history will ensure a confident and professional approach and give you the best chance of a positive response from the other person.

Step 5 – Prepare a positive strategy to deliver disappointing news, and keep listening out for feedback

If you are going to be delivering disappointing news, have a clear plan to hand so that you can present the solutions and options you came up with in Step 2 quickly and effectively. When offering solutions and options that are different to those the other person is expecting or hoping for, you should always start with things you can personally do to help as this shows you are stepping up willingly and taking ownership and responsibility. Listen carefully for clues on how the colleague or customer is responding and be open to any feedback they give you. Looking back at the possible obstacles you considered in Step 3, make sure you are ready to acknowledge and welcome any feedback or complaints. If the customer begins to express negative emotions, showing empathy can really help, but this must be done with care and purpose; we will cover this in more detail below.

Step 6 – Get the people skills/technical balance right!

It’s vital that your conversation starts with good people skills such as influencing, persuading, listening and empathising – by being friendly and welcoming, before moving on to the more technical aspects of the situation. Being overly technical at the start by quoting policies, processes and techniques can make us appear cold and indifferent, that we are just ‘going through the motions’ in a scripted or robotic way, and this will alienate the other person. Using warm, confident and reassuring language is much more likely to elicit and maintain a positive and open response and provide the best chance of working together to find the most appropriate and efficient solution.

Empathy – getting it right

There are times when we need to acknowledge challenging circumstances using appropriate empathy, and it’s important to do this with sincere yet careful intention. When we are expressing empathy with customers and colleagues it is helpful to empathise about the circumstance or situation and the impact of that, rather than getting too involved in the emotions surrounding the situation, which is what we might do with more personal relationships.

It’s advisable to start with a supportive, considerate and sincere statement such as “I’m so sorry to hear that,” or “I can really appreciate the impact that must have had” – ensuring the person really hears that you mean what you are saying – before moving straight onto the positive actions you are able to take to help them and progress the situation straightaway. This will reassure the other person that they are in safe and capable hands which makes that memorable difference to the customer, while moving swiftly on towards a constructive and positive outcome.

These six steps briefly encompass the framework required to enable us to prepare for and even embrace any conversations that come our way at work, at all levels – whether they be straightforward or challenging.  When we are equipped to respond or reach out naturally and sincerely and converse with appropriate levels of confidence and empathy, we automatically assure our colleagues and customers of our commitment and capability, that we will get the job done to the best of our abilities, while positioning ourselves to deliver outstanding outcomes, whatever comes our way.

How can we help?

To chat with us about how MGI’s Mindset, Language and Actions Toolkit and tailored Learning Journeys can empower your teams with the skills to ensure confidence in everything they do at work, please book a consultation here.

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