Prioritizing Conversational Leadership

Did you know 52% of employees are planning on looking for a new job this year? That’s a 43% increase from 2020. We’re all in need of a retention strategy. Perhaps that’s why the conversation in human resources is shifting from managing an employee’s work-life to managing their life experience. In other words – realizing that work can improve employees’ lives, through promoting work-life balance, and helping people take care of the details of their lives at work (like Loretto’s free diaper program, a laundry service, etc).

I’ve written a few blog posts that have danced around the topic of conversational leadership. Still, I wanted to dedicate a post to intentionally calling it out – defining it and tying the past blog posts together. Conversational leadership can significantly impact your success, whether you’re the leader of a business, organization, classroom, church, or other group. So – what exactly does it mean?

Conversational leadership means that you recognize and value the personal relations part of your business –engaging with others, not just about work, but also showing interest in their interests outside of work. It’s not just about making an effort to reach out but also making an effort to listen.

Sounds easy enough, right? It’s not. Because even if you are interested in getting to know those you work with, finding time to engage isn’t easy – and prioritizing it can get in the way of other “more important” things like project deadlines, updates, etc. The key is to get creative with incorporating into the organization.

For example, when I started at Loretto, a third-party came on board to conduct dialogues with staff members. We gathered peers in a room to discuss some questions and then brought everyone together for a larger conversation. Not only did I dedicate time to listening, and learn a lot, but I’ve also continued that conversation – and it remains the foundation of many of the initiatives I have (and hope to) put in place to try to make our employees’ lives better. You can read more about the details of that experience in a past blog post, “The Value of Having a Conversation with Your Organization.” While these conversations were formal, the informal conversations that happen at the water cooler are equally as important.

Making time for the water cooler conversations is also at the top of my list as a starting point for creating a shared purpose at work. What’s the big deal about a sense of purpose? According to Inc, 70% of employees are disengaged at work – and research shows to experience joy in life, we’re all looking for a sense of purpose. The bottom line is, you can’t create meaning at work without knowing what matters to the people you work with – again, it comes back to conversations. I’ve pulled together thoughts on conversations as they relate to purpose in my previous post, “Engage Employees: Create a Sense of Shared Purpose.”

It’s good to have these practices in place because when there’s a bump in the road or a crisis, you have a solid foundation of trust and support. Let’s take the pandemic, for example. Whether you’re navigating employees coming back to the office, working remotely, or juggling parenting and work, it’s challenging. As leaders, we need to be empathetic and understanding. We need to prioritize conversations that ask our employees how they’re doing, what they need – and we need to listen. Life will never be the same as it was pre-pandemic. People have experienced loss and stress, and they’re grieving. Conversational leadership is the answer. If you’re looking for specific recommendations as it relates to crisis – I’ve gathered a few in my recent post, “Your Role as Healer-in-Chief.”

As you can see, prioritizing conversational leadership is critical for so many reasons. Have you been intentional about it? If not, I have good news – today is the perfect day to start. Seriously, life feels a little chaotic for all of us right now. Shifting your mindset when it comes to the value of conversations at this point could radically impact your business for good. Trust me, your employees and co-workers need it.