For most teams, having genuine caring conversations takes practice. It can feel easier to keep the conversations light, particularly if that’s your team culture. But at a time when people are longing for compassion and connection, taking the conversation a level deeper can make all the difference for your employees’ mental health, as well as for building deeper trust. These compassionate conversation starters are a great way to normalize going a level deeper, so it’s easier for anyone to start a conversation when they need it most.
Have you ever experienced a scene like this?
Someone asks, “How was everyone’s weekend?”
And the responses are quick and casual. ”Ahh, good, man.” “Yeah, mine too.” “Did you do anything fun?” “Not much, you know … just chilln’.”
And, one guy, let’s call him “Kevin” is sitting there thinking:
“You know, my weekend was pretty crummy. My three kids have the croup. We are worried it’s COVID, so none of our family could help. And my wife is pretty sick too. I’m extra worried about her, because she’s already under so much stress. No one got much sleep. I know, we’ve got this important presentation today, so I got in early, but honestly, I’m pretty much toast and could use some extra help.
But instead, he says, “Yeah, you know. Same.”
There’s a reason that Gallup includes “I have a best friend at work” as a cornerstone question in their employee engagement survey. When people feel connected at a human level, they’re more productive, more engaged, and tend to stick around.
I’m not suggesting that these conversation starters will suddenly turn every member of your team into besties, but a regular cadence of real conversation makes it easier to bring up the tough stuff as needed.
In my last role at Verizon, I led an entirely remote team. It could have been a really lonely job for all of us.
One day, my boss observed, “It’s amazing to watch how close your team is to one another. You can tell that they truly care and enjoy one another. And, so much laughter. Not to mention, you’re getting it DONE! How do you all do that?”
The truth is, I give all the credit to my team. As the leader, I just had to create to space to make these conversations possible.
When we were able to be together, we shared meals and talked about the hard stuff. We made it okay to not be okay on the team. People felt like they could pick up the phone and just vent to one another without judgment. They asked what they could do to help—and then did.
I want that for you and your team too.
So here are a few conversation starters that can help.
You can share the entire list of conversation starters and invite each team member to pick one to answer. Or you can rotate through a question of the day or week.
Of course, it’s not just the one conversation that makes a difference. These questions can help your team form a habit of being a bit more real with one another. And after a while, they won’t need a conversation starter to start a more compassionate conversation.
Of course, once the team has some regular practice with some of these conversation starters, you can also invite your team to BYOQ (Bring Your Own Question), Inviting them to consider a compassionate probe that would serve the team.
Your turn. What are some of your best practices to encourage your team to connect at a deeper level?
Click HERE to download a PDF Compassion Conversation Starters to Help Your Team Connect
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