What Makes Your Business Conversations Productive?
All of us spend some time in communications associated with how we make a living. This likely occurs daily. Mine are varied and diverse on levels many may not be able to relate to. On any given day I am in a conversation with a lender about financing of a client project; I am opining on an operational system in long-term care – falling back on my healthcare administration background – or speaking with a community mental health executive about instructional design to add uniformity to their people stabilization efforts. On another day – if not the same day – I am giving advice to a client on resolving a complex issue impacting or potentially impacting their business or speaking with an insurance executive about what satisfies a reimbursement request associated with a claim. Diverse might be an understatement.
None of us have time to waste. It is for this reason that for more than 25 years I have utilized a system that helps me minimize the number of conversations on a subject while prioritizing resolution quickly. I take this approach:
- Use Tools of Preparedness:
Generally, I try and ensure the other party or parties in the conversation have in writing via email or another channel what we need to discuss. As a result, after an initial greeting, everyone can get right to the meat of the matter. If something needs to be resolved, there has been an ample opportunity for everyone to think of options and various approaches. This leads to a better discussion.
- Accept the Purpose of the Interaction:
Humans need pleasantries and ordinarily, we care about one another. Therefore, it is appropriate for this to be shared, including in business conversations. However, for efficiency sake these business conversations need to move along rather quickly with the goal of accomplishing the purpose of the conversation. If the case needs to be made that a methodology used in personnel training should be adjusted or if an insurer needs to be convinced from irrefutable evidence that funding a service requires a different approach, the conversation needs to focus on this priority. Additionally, all parties must be prepared to listen as much as they are ready to talk.
- Justify and Schedule the follow-Up:
Ideally one conversation can bring any matter to resolution. However, on occasion there is a need for additional research, outreach to other parties or time to think about proposals made. When this is the case, I always ensure a specific amount of time is committed for this and I seek to schedule the date of the follow-up right then. At the time of the follow-up conversation, we go right to the matter at hand.
- Notes matter
I always take notes, and often will type up a Conversation Record. This helps me to keep track of the details of the conversation.
These are my strategies and how I minimize unnecessary conversation. My approach may not work for everyone but has been very meaningful for me.
Thanks for playing along.