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The ROI on Better Workplace Conversations

Better relationships and communication produces better outcomes.

According to a 2016 Gallup poll, companies with better relationships and communication experience 20% higher productivity, 21% higher profitability, and 41% lower absenteeism. Thanks to these types of polls, employers are able to see the return on investment of better workplace conversations much more clearly. Companies are starting to realize that they can’t afford to not invest in the soft skills of their leaders. But a recent Deloitte study reported that new Millennial managers are rarely taught these skills.

When 10% of the workforce has the skills to be effective leaders, and ⅔ of employees report feeling disengaged, we must realize there is an opportunity to create wiser workplaces. In the face of numbers like these, fostering strong manager-to-team and peer-to-peer relationships just makes good business sense. So how do we begin to work on having better conversations when we haven’t been taught nor have an understanding? Let’s start by breaking down the components that are needed to build this kind of skill.

Wisdom Labs provides science-based tools for thriving at work and tackles the heavy topics of stress, burnout, and resiliency. They believe that there are three primary contributing factors to effective workplace conversations:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Genuine connection

Why is Self-Awareness Critical to Good Leadership?

Victor Lipman, author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, said in an article on employee engagement,

“The qualities commonly associated with management and leadership – being authoritative, decisive, forceful, perhaps somewhat controlling, if not moderated by a high degree of awareness as to how one comes across and is perceived by others, are also qualities that have the potential to easily alienate those on the receiving end.”

Gallup also supports this assertion, reporting “lack of communication” and managerial support as one of the top five reasons for employee burnout. What does self-awareness in the workplace look like though? First-line leaders often get promoted because of technical prowess and they may not be immediately aware of how their actions and reactions affect those around them. “Soft skills,” like self-awareness and compassion, didn’t matter as much as they do post-promotion. When you’re self-aware, you know your strengths and weaknesses and are better able to balance your team in terms of capabilities. High self-awareness also helps you manage your emotions and helps you understand why you work the way you do.

Is Self-Regulation the Secret Skill of the Effective Manager?

Self-regulation, something we sometimes think of as self-mastery, ties heavily into self-awareness. You cannot master your work and your life without self-awareness. Simply put, self-regulation is self-control. You moderate your responses to events, maintaining better control over yourself in any situation. A recent study shows that you can impact individuals with up to three degrees of separation from you. Now imagine how an emotional outburst or strongly worded email from you can ripple through your entire organization.

When you exercise self-mastery, you limit the number of unintended effects your responses cause. Managers who regularly have emotional outbursts at work engender distrust and cause low productivity and higher turnover. Organizations with disengaged employees reported 59% more turnover than organizations with strong manager and team relationships.

Real Connection in the Workplace Requires Attention

While working on your self-awareness and self-regulation, you must also work on creating real connections with your team members. Feeling as if someone genuinely has their best interests at heart is the most critical factor of employee engagement. Employees who regularly engage with their managers in a meaningful way report feeling engaged at work 3 times as often as those who don’t.

One of the ways you can work on creating genuine relationships at work is by training yourself to be more vulnerable. This is difficult for everybody, not just those who are naturally shy or introverted. A simple practice to introduce more vulnerability into conversations can begin by taking a “minute to land” at the start of weekly one-on-ones with your team members. By giving others a sense of the personal and professional items on your plate, you create the opportunity for real connection.

These three skills are the foundation of the other soft skills (like effective conversations at work) you will need to develop to be an effective manager. Only 10% of the workforce is considered equipped to be effective leaders in their organizations.

The solution is wiser workplaces, and the time is now.


About the Contributor // Meghna Majmudar is an experienced marketing and business development leader and executive coach. She is committed to working with organizations and leaders that are improving themselves and the world. You can connect with her on Twitter @meghnaspeaks or on Linkedin.

About Wisdom Labs // Wisdom Labs’ Wiser Workplace Ambassador Program is a 12-week, employee-led learning program where groups explore and practice around topics of mindfulness, compassion, emotional awareness, and communication in the workplace. Learn more.