Conversations are where things happen between the meetings which take up our time. As a Business Relationship Manager, or indeed anyone seeking to bring about change, being able to take someone on a journey often starts with an initial conversation.
All conversations can be good. Your task is to make a conversation great. It is easy to talk to people but you want to talk with them. It is easy to have lots of conversations but great conversations result in action. Things don’t (often) happen by chance, though serendipity probably achieves more than we realise. Being intentional is what will move you from spending a lot of time talking and being able to make progress towards a shared goal.
IDAP is a model to have in your mind as you start to plan out intentional conversations. Remember models aren’t perfect, they just help you to be less wrong.
Insight – start with knowledge of something that is going to be perceived to be useful, have value, or help the person you’re in conversation with. This may be someone you have picked up from the work you’ve been doing in their business area. It could be an article that you read that provides outside-in thinking. There could be a trend that you’ve identified with the customer segment that is of most value. Insight isn’t just a fact or a bit of knowledge, this should be something that will make the other person sit up and start to think.
Discussion – Part of being intentional is taking control. Control is knowing when to pause and not fill the silence. Most people are uncomfortable with silence so if you can hold out longer, the other person will fill the void. As this starts to happen you can then steer the conversation. Look for the reaction to your insight. Discuss the impact that it is having. Explore the consequences on the business unit, the team or the work that is currently taking place. Remember: don’t listen to respond but listen to learn.
Ask Questions – Open questions support discussion. They are also the opportunity to learn, share knowledge and widen the discussion. Questions should be intelligent. Asking someone “what keeps you awake at night?” doesn’t show you’re a person they should value. Setting out the challenges you see their peers in other situations face and asking if they are similar brings value from a different perspective.
Personalise – As it has been said, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Being intentional and having a model isn’t about being rigid. It is a way to be less wrong and choosing to use time and interactions for a goal. Personalising the approach, the questions and the direction demonstrate that you’re interested in the person and the partnership. Link the responses you get to the next questions, think about the key things which are emerging and look for the opportunity to summarise for this person. The insight you start with is the starting point but it should always be personalised for the specific individual you are having a discussion with.