It’s good to talk – three tips on engaging your finance team

3 May 22

Including all staff members in workplace conversations can help finance departments reach their full potential.

Conversations help build connections and relationships in our workplaces.

But we rarely pay attention to how inclusive our conversations are. Unless leaders and managers have genuine aspirations for inclusive conversation, those who are not invited to speak, not heard, or not believed, lose trust and respect for the organisation – and their motivation to do their best work.

Only when people learn the art of good conversation will they begin to be equal.

The obstacle to this is not ‘knowing’ who we are talking to. Good conversation demands curiosity and equality between those participating.

Our differences create mystery, which is why all people are worth talking to. A good conversation generates inspiration from our differences – anything less would be boring.

Focusing our efforts on developing the skills and qualities of good conversation is one of the most important ways of establishing equality in the workplace and beyond.

Managers and leaders are ideally placed to help improve the dynamics of workplace conversation. But they need to know what good conversation looks and feels like.

Everybody’s style of speaking and listening is a mixture of echoes emerging from the different experiences and stages of their lives.

Our ability to see and hear our colleagues, even if they are right in front of us, is often compromised by bias and unhealthy patterns of talking, developed over time.

These are compounded by a culture of always being ‘busy’ and the pressure we put ourselves under to constantly be accomplishing things.

If inclusive conversation is everyone’s responsibility, how can you play your part?

1 Engage others over your intentions

First, state your intention to improve workplace dialogue and facilitate good conversations in all your meetings.

Ultimately, every team will have to work out how it is going to talk together.

It might not be possible to offer a single set of rules to help every type of workplace conversation, but all leaders can make a difference by devoting attention to a few specific factors.

2 Create conversational spaces

Plan your strategy for creating the space to talk about how to improve workplace conversations.

It is important to gain awareness of how people – especially minority groups – experience talking together. How do they feel during and when they leave a meeting, and how do they want to feel?

These initial conversations should be free of blame. Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, and, inevitably, the subject of bias will come up. It is important that people are supported in the personal effort involved in learning to recognise and manage their own biases.

The first step is being able to talk openly about bias and someone being prepared to admit some of their own. This could be you.

3 Learn facilitation skills

Good facilitation skills can help the group increase effectiveness by improving its process and structure.

This means helping the group to become aware of how its members talk together, who silences whom, how they listen, share ideas, make decisions, solve problems together and how they handle conflict.

Once a team has identified the characteristics of good conversation and how they want to experience and feel talking together, these elements can be documented, used to identify personal development needs and to reflect on progress.

  • Debbie Bayntun-Lees 

    is professor of organisational development & leadership at Hult International Business School

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