January 12, 2012
News & Opinion: Conversations for Creating Star Performers
I first met Shawn Kent Hayashi when she spoke at our 2010 Author Pow Wow. Much of her talk focused on how to make better connections with people through conversation, but also how to inspire change through these same conversations. Her new book is titled Conversations for Creating Star Performers: Go Beyond the Performance Review to Inspire Excellence Every Day. In it, she furthers her ideas on the power of conversations, and now explains how management and leaders can engage with people to help them on a regular basis, not just at planned review sessions. The critical part of the conversation stems from understanding and being able to help develop what other people really want out of their lives. Shawn frames this with the questions: "Imagine yourself having fun - what comes to mind? Now, consider what causes you to want to perform well at work. Does work trigger the same emotions that playing does for you?" How might a manager understand this about their employees? And more importantly, how can they help bridge the two experiences to be more similar? In Ms. Hayashi's experience, it can be done through conversations. This is an interesting book that focuses not just on what we speak, but how we listen, think, and consider skills, ambitions, and the lives of those around us, and how we might help contribute to the process of making them better. After reading the book, I sent Shawn a few questions about it: What was your biggest reason for writing the book? Shawn Kent Hayashi: The desire to serve my coaching clients in ways that enable them to grow to the next level in their leadership ability. How do conversations turn into action? SKH: A conversation can help us get unstuck. Have you ever been tangled up in an idea and then in a conversation with someone who asked great questions you discovered clarity in your thinking? Some people are verbal processors, in other words they have to speak the idea out loud before they are clear about what they want or need to do. Knowing what questions to ask, when, and how to listen is vital for coaches, managers and leaders who want to develop star performers and teams that excel. Being the manager who is known for developing and inspiring people creates momentum -- we are naturally drawn to these leaders because good things happen in their presence. What if some people are resistant to a conversation? How might the same goals be achieved? SKH: We are all resistant to unwanted change and intense criticism. Sometimes demonstrating that we are willing to have an on-going exchange about a challenging topic can break through the resistance. Showing that we want to hear what the other person thinks and feels and that we are sincerely listening can shatter walls. The same goals can be achieved with a meaningful dialog in email if the listening is woven into the back and forth replies -- the questions and conversation tips in this book work equally well in email too. How might managers determine the right questions to ask employees in order to accomplish their goals? SKH: Conversations for Creating Star Performers introduces readers to 10 different types of conversations that all managers, coaches and leaders need to know how to create. Each type of conversation comes with its own phrases to begin and ideas for how best to apply to the current issue. Each of these conversational strategies are fully blueprinted in the book, including: • Building Awareness: Do employees know what their strengths and blind spots really are? This chapter shows how to talk about what team members do best and where they need support. • Identifying Motivators: What motivates the team members? How should individual motivators be addressed in conversation? • Identifying What Team Members Do Well: Find ways in which employees add value to their teams as well as where their developmental needs are and will likely bubble. • Creating Development Plans: Preferred communication styles provide a key to identifying each employee’s likely developmental needs. How can a manager write great development plans that are focused on each of the team members? • Developing New Skills: “Work on one’s strengths” does not mean ignoring blind spots. Playing to one’s strengths is smart business; however, blind spots can create a derailment if left unnoticed. • Getting Back on Track: The value in learning how to get people unstuck and back on track is worth its weight in gold. • Accountability: Engage others in positive ways, build caring relationships that explore what matters to other people as it relates to creating a meaningful future, and then have ongoing check-in conversations about how the group is doing – this is the spirit of accountability conversations. • Performance Reviews: The goal is to create conversations about how performance is going regularly, and summaries monthly, so that the employee is inspired and focused. • Recognition: Point out what people are doing well and celebrate successes and small steps in the right direction; this will create a positive emotional wake and inspire people in new ways. • Succession Planning: Who are the future leaders and are they being developed now to be ready for those roles?