5 Steps to engage the heart and mind in a conversation

As a leader, you will navigate a business landscape demanding speed, adaptability, and courage. You’re faced with balancing swift decision-making with a need to initiate and engage in discussions on vital topics such as performance, profitability, and change management. These are important conversations, and let’s face it, they can sometimes feel tough.
The following five steps provide a framework to prepare key messages to achieve the objectives of the conversation (practical needs) and consider how to engage the heart and mind at every step, ensuring people feel valued, understood, supported, and respected (personal needs).

1. Open: Clearly describe the purpose of the discussion and explain why it’s important.

2. Clarify: Seek and share information about the situation. This step is often skipped, but remember you may not have the full picture. Be curious about the situation and listen with empathy.

If you demonstrate an understanding of the context elements, people are more likely to trust your intention. Overcome resistance by sharing data to support your perspective:

  • I can see this caught you off guard. Why don’t I share the survey data, and we can discuss how to address the problem?”

Oversee this step if you are on the practical side of the continuum.

3. Develop: Use your understanding of the situation to seek and discuss ideas. Explore needed resources and support.

It is often useful to involve others to share their ideas and suggestions before offering your own. Involving people sparks their creative energy and can generate better ideas. But most importantly, when you involve others in the ideation, they will be more committed to putting their own ideas into action. Overcome resistance by sharing your own experience:

  • “What am I supposed to do now? I’ve never dealt with this before.”
  • “The first time this happened to me, it was a real blow to my confidence, but it helped me grow. Let’s come up with ways to mitigate the issues.”

  1. 4. Agree: Ensure understanding and agreement of who will do what and by when. If you end the discussion without agreeing on actions, you risk people leaving the discussion unclear about what to do next. Confirm how to track progress and offer support. Watch this step carefully if you are on the personal side of the continuum.

  1. 5. Close: The closing gives you a chance to briefly summarize what was discussed and agreed to. This helps ensure commitment to actions as well as builds both parties’ confidence and esteem in achieving the plan.

Source: DDI, 2023

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”
– Charlie Kaufman

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DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication

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