Why Great Leaders Practice Conversations

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My very first boss was an excellent conversationalist.

Be it an emergency, a need to motivate or even dealing with someone’s personal life situation he always knew what to say. A way with words. Mastery of the art of conversation.  This created an amazing team spirit,  and 15 years later most of us on the team still stay in touch regularly.

Luckily, Chris has been become a trusted mentor to me. And one of the most surprising things I learned about him was how this seemingly “natural” flow of conversation was actually far from natural at all. In fact, he told me until his late 20’s he was anxious about speaking to others and commonly made mistakes.

His ability to converse effectively with others was actually due to careful painstaking practice. At one stage, literally planning what to say word by word. Learning and deliberately using specific words and phrases. When he first moved into a leadership position he even used to practice important meeting conversations in front of the mirror and then later on with his wife.

Only after several years of practice, refinement and analysis did he eventually develop the ability to speak so confidently and seemingly naturally.

It’s not unusual. In fact, it’s roughly estimated that 50% of the population are introverted and even seemingly social butterflies need to practice and prepare in order to converse with other’s effectively.

And it’s not just to simply cut out the um’s and the er’s. Practicing the art of conversation actually has many other hidden benefits.

Here are some reasons why great leaders practice conversations.

It maximises impact

Our lives have never been busier.

Rapidly improving technology, increased methods of communication and increased work loads means our attention spans have never been under more pressure.

With all this noise, only the most impactful things in our lives are going to stand out and be memorable. That’s why ensuring our conversations are as impactful as possible is so important.

Great leaders understand that directly conversing with others is the most powerful opportunity to influence others and genuinely connect with them. And so they prepare to ensure that this precious opportunity is not wasted. That they convey their messages in the most appropriate and impactful way.

Whether it is using carefully thought out examples, using language that resonates with their followers or asking the most thought provoking questions, nothing is left to chance. They connect with others more effectively and are far more inspirational.

Great leaders maximise the power of their conversations.

It saves time

Ever been in a conversation with someone and felt like you were just endlessly going around in circles?

Ever left a meeting only to feel exhausted and more confused than when you started?

If so, you’re probably not alone.

You see, although often our intentions can be good, simply turning up and seeing how “things go” can be often be highly inefficient. Especially if there is a lot to be covered or situations are complex. This can often result in conversations ping-ponging randomly from one topic to another, without focussing on the most important issues and agreeing on definite courses of action.

To actually drive constructive action, it’s better to have a clear plan of the topics to be covered and tackle problems one at a time.

Great leaders understand that by preparing and practicing what to say in particular situations, its possible to save precious time even in high pressure situations. Not only does this free the leader up to do more, it also creates a reputation of efficiency and respect with followers.

Great leaders are efficient.

It allows growth  

The best are always looking to get better.

Elite athletes look to go faster, top sales people want to sell more, great inventors look to build even better products.

The same is true for great leaders. Rather than leaving it to chance, they consistently try to assess their performance and strive to improve.

One of the biggest advantages in carefully preparing what to say in important situations is that it makes one conscious of what is being said. It allows assessment and hence refinement and improvement. In fact, many executives I have worked with (some who are CEO’s of major public companies), openly admit to refining specific speeches and conversations in order to derive what works best.

Great leaders understand that when taking part in conversations, sometimes even a little change can make a big difference. Rather than thinking on the spot and relying purely on natural intuition, they take time practice and improve.

Great leaders are always looking to improve.

Conclusion

It’s estimated the average person speaks around 15,000-20,000 words a day.

With the impact of this conversation often being so important, it makes sense to be as effective as possible.

Great leaders understand that just like all other aspects of life, practicing and maximizing the impact of our words upon others is an invaluable skill to have.

Do you practice your conversations?

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