Cultivating Performance with Purposeful Conversations

Evelyn Tian
Have you found yourself in situations where offering feedback seems essential but also presents a challenge, particularly when conveying critical points?

How often do you find yourself weighing the decision to express your thoughts versus letting the moment pass?

Explore the art of purposeful conversations for delightful Interactions and performance.
According to researchers at Harvard Business School, nearly 70% of managers express discomfort when communicating with employees.

Many managers express a distinct dislike for, or even hate giving feedback, often to the point of avoiding it altogether. This aversion is usually rooted in the discomfort associated with potentially negative reactions or the fear of damaging relationships. The anxiety over how feedback might be perceived can lead to missed opportunities for individual’s growth and team’s potentials.

Though feedback sounds almost scary to many, the process of providing feedback, as well as communicating with employees and colleagues, does not need to be viewed as a daunting task. In fact, when handled correctly, it can transform into a delightful, enriching, and genuinely enjoyable experience. Feedback, when delivered with the right intent and in the appropriate manner, can be one of the most powerful tools for fostering professional development and building trust.

Refining Our Approach Through Language

Language plays a critical role in shaping how our messages are received and understood. The words we choose not only convey information but also emotions and intentions, significantly impacting the effectiveness and reception of our communication. This can be particularly true in delicate scenarios like providing feedback, where the difference between a positive and negative outcome can hinge on the choice of words.

Here’s our first tip: in any interaction, remember that your language is your message, not merely a vehicle for your intent.

The language we use and how we phrase our thoughts can significantly influence the outcome of our interactions. It can either facilitate open dialogue or close it off, build trust or diminish it, and inspire confidence or generate fear. Therefore, selecting the right words is crucial to ensure that your true intentions are understood and that your message has the desired impact

Consider the following scenarios: 

Your boss approaches you and says, “Do you have a few minutes for a quick feedback conversation?” 

During a conversation, your boss says, “I have some feedback for you.” 

How would you feel when you hear this? Let me guess - nervous, uncertain, worried, stressed, anxious, uneasy,… while, more on the negative side, which in turn make you get on the defensive side. Such an opening may not set the stage for meaningful conversations. Therefore, despite your good intentions, you might start off on the wrong foot, or at least, the conversation may not be as productive as it could be.

As leaders, our intention in providing feedback is fundamentally positive; we aim and hope for the best possible outcomes. However, the word "feedback" alone can evoke a sense of uncertainty and apprehension, leading to defensive reactions. By choosing our words more carefully and framing our intentions in a more supportive way, we can transform these interactions into opportunities for growth and open, constructive dialogue.

“The art of giving feedback is not to use the word feedback
while working with feedback.”

I hope the above quote makes sense to you and possibly also triggers a subsequent question, how do we give feedback then? 

A New Strategy - The Art of Conversational Feedback

Instead of using the word 'feedback,' why not simply engage in a structured conversation? It is always easier to use a structure to construct a conversation to start with, particularly with feedback which many leaders don’t quite feel comfortable to work with yet. 
A Structured Approach

A structured approach can change the dynamic, making the process more about mutual discovery leading to more opportunities.

While you are practice and experiment to come up with your own structure, there is also an easier option - you can download a free copy of the eBook on Cultivating Performance with Purposeful Conversations, where I introduce a structured model to many leaders, through training and coaching. 

Learn more about how to have purposeful conversations

About the author

Evelyn Tian

Evelyn Tian is an Advanced Certified Mentor Coach (ACMC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Certified Coach Supervisor, Certified Team Coach and Certified Enterprise Coach. She is also a Certified Performance Coach, Executive Coach, and Certified Master Coach with focuses on behavioral-based coaching. 

She has been mentoring agile coaches and professional coaches since 2011, and some of her mentees are current active ACC, PCC, Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC), and Certified Team Coach (CTC) holders. As of Nov 2023, she has supported practitioners from 80 countries. 

She is a keynote speaker of international conferences on leadership, organization, professional coaching, agile, scrum, and product development.
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