5 Conversations: How to transform trust, engagement and performance at work

My brushes with management have been few and infrequent, and I must admit I wasn’t very good. In my 20s I was promoted to Assistant Manager of a successful restaurant. It was my first foray into management, and I was given no training. I lacked the skills that I needed to be able to manage staff, and as a result they showed me no respect - fooling around on the job, or not turning up for shifts.

This experience has had a knock-on effect throughout my career - I have shied away from jobs that have required me to manage other people. In fact, I went to the other extreme. As a TV continuity announcer, I spent seven years sitting in a small booth on my own, which was not great for building relationships!

My early experience may have knocked my confidence but I’ve reached a point in my career where being able to communicate well with others is fundamental. I was slightly nervous when I picked up 5 Conversations that it would be beyond my comprehension. After all, it’s a book for leaders - and I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as one of those!

The book draws on a number of established approaches and has been written as a response to 30 years of research. It aims to identify and draw out the two-way conversations between line manager and staff member, with the objective of building a trusting relationship. It dispels the myth that leaders shouldn’t get ‘too close’ to their team in case it undermines their authority, and instead sets out to prove that a mutual trusting relationship is the key to employee engagement.

The book gave me a really good opportunity to reflect on my own management style, but also how I come across to other colleagues. For example, Conversation 1 deals with values and preferred ways of working. As someone who can become a little irate if people ‘waste my time’ talking trivia, I can now see that dismissing small talk can make me come across as arrogant and unapproachable. I’ve now accepted that chatting to colleagues is an equally important part of the working day, and one that I have to factor it into my schedule.

Sharing mutual expectations is the theme of Conversation 2, while Conversation 3 centres on showing genuine appreciation. Conversation 4 states that: ‘Very few people demonstrate unhelpful behaviour with the conscious intention to hurt or annoy others’ and explores why many mangers’ approach to what they perceive as unhelpful behaviour is never going to get them anywhere. Finally, after helping you understand your own behaviour and how it impacts those around you, Conversation 5 looks at building for the future.

I would recommend that everyone reads 5 Conversations - not just business leaders, but anyone who wants to build better relationships with their colleagues. Even if you feel valued in your organisation now, will you always? This book arms you with the tools to deal with any situation and maintaining harmonious relationships at work.

Claire Gibb is Consultant and former Television Announcer.