One of the biggest time wasters in your business day is time spent talking with other people!
One of the absolute best uses of your work time is productive conversations with people important to your success!
Where is the difference? Working productively with the right group of people is the key to multiplying success. However, people are social creatures, who often fear something new, who wish to preserve their self-image and self-confidence, and don’t always get to the point in a conversation. Therefore, if you wish for your ‘people time’ to be productive, it must be done purposefully.
Schedule appointments to talk. If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully. If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time. And they may do the same with you.
Set expectations ahead of time. If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda.” Set a time and day on your calendars, even 15 minutes from now, to give each person time to “have their first reaction” and to prepare for the meeting. Have the conversation ahead of time: “When we speak, I will… and you will.. in order to accomplish [goal, task or decision].” This works both up and down the chain of command.
For example, “I’d like to talk to you about the production logs. How about Tuesday at 1pm for 30 minutes? Before then, I will review the log for my areas of concern. And you could review the log compared to last month’s as well as looking for overall opportunities for improvement. When we sit down, we’ll go though the last two months, each sharing our observations. Does that work for you?” Make sure you get their commitment to the agenda you suggested. If they don’t agree, edit or change it so that you can both prepare appropriately and not end up arguing about the agenda during the meeting.
If someone comes to you and wants to talk right then, tell them you are right in the middle of something, would like to be able to give them your full concentration and are wondering if you could come see them in 20 minutes. Then, ascertain from them what it is they need from you when you come see them. This asks them to think through the results they desire (which they may really not have done yet), and allows you to prepare as well, saving you both time and potential frustration.
Get very good at asking questions. In these situations, you want to remain in control, specifically of making sure something productive comes out of the conversation. Gladly take that responsibility. In order to do that you need to ask questions from the standpoint of genuine curiosity to see where they are coming from and how that relates to what you are trying to accomplish. With the information you gather, you can then notice excuses, frustrations in the form of roadblocks, and cries for attention that can get in the way of productive discussion.
When you talk, you share information. You rarely can change anyone’s mind by talking. By asking curious questions, you get the other person talking. When they talk, you hear how they are really thinking. When they talk, you can prompt them to consider your point of view. Help them to get to a conclusion, considering what you value. When they talk is when they think through things and may change their mind as a result.
It’s up to you to work to understand the other person. The difficulty with having a conversation is that it is with a person – who has their own feelings, experiences, biases, expectations, etc. The first thing they say is rarely the whole picture – as it is for you. Ask your questions. Give them time.
Schedule a follow up conversation if important to them or to you. Set a time and date and the agenda for that conversation as well.