In a recent survey conducted by the American Management Association, HR professionals identified verbal communication as one of the skills organizations need to prioritize in their training and development programs.
It’s no secret that communicating effectively is essential for any manager. But what can managers specifically do to improve their team interactions?
Craig Weber, in his book Conversational Capacity: The Secret to Building Successful Teams That Perform When the Pressure Is On, argues that managers will be much more successful if they have a toolbox of concepts to help them navigate communication challenges.
And it’s not enough for a manager or supervisor to possess solid communication skills. They also need to coach members of their team on how to improve their communication. If communication between teammates becomes strained or antagonistic, dysfunction can set in, which means work will suffer and the team itself could eventually split apart.
Weber says that managers need to keep vigilant for communication pitfalls and address them immediately in order to keep teams collegial, goal-oriented and respectful of each other’s ideas. Weber bases his approach to effective communication, and his theory of “conversational capacity,” on two decades of consulting experience working with a wide range of organizations.
“Conversational capacity” as defined by Weber is “the ability to have open, balanced, non-defensive dialogue about difficult subjects, and in challenging situations.” When conversational capacity is high, a team can address its most challenging issues in a productive manner. When it is low, even a minor disagreement can sabotage the team’s collaboration.
“There’s a place you want people working when they’re dealing with a significant issue,” Weber told Rapid Learning Institute during a recent webinar. “It’s a place I refer to as the ‘sweet spot.’ This is where the good learning occurs. What holds us in the ‘sweet spot’ is a balance between two important things.”
These two things, according to Weber, are the elements that facilitate conversational capacity.
- Being candid. When managers and teammates are candid in a meeting, they’re honest, open and forthcoming. They don’t enter into team discussions with hidden agendas or bad attitudes. But they also don’t pretend to be nice and agreeable at the expense of being effective. They find ways to voice disagreement diplomatically, without damaging others or acting aggressively.
- Being curious. Curious communication reflects the desire for an open exchange of ideas, free of preconceived notions and egocentric objections. When people embrace their curiosity, they listen to unpopular opinions with fresh ears and welcome viewpoints that contradict their own. The goal is not to be “right” or to dismiss ideas you don’t agree with, but for the team to arrive at the best possible solution.
To learn more about how to develop effective communication in your organization, view Rapid Learning Institute’s webinar with Craig Weber below.
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