Increase Your Influence in One Conversation


We’re sharing ideas this month to help you be the kind of leader you want to be. This week, I want to tell you about a strategy that can make all the difference in managing a work relationship. I spent a large part of my career in various leadership roles at Deloitte. Every time I started a new project with a team, I would have a conversation with each person at the outset. Our discussion topics ranged from goals to strengths to communication styles.

First, we would talk about that person’s goals for the year and for her career as a whole.

  • What skills and exposure do you want?

  • Who do you want to work with and why?

  • What are your specific goals for the current project?

  • What would make you feel that the project was a great experience?

Next, I asked questions to get a handle on her strengths and preferences:

  • In the context of the work we’re about to do, what should I know about what you’re really good at and any relevant past experiences? (This reveals critical information that otherwise might not surface as quickly and can be a good team exercise.)

  • What is the best way to communicate with you (face-to-face or email)?

  • If I need something from you quickly, what’s the best way to approach it?

As I learned more about each team member, I also shared what worked for me and my preferences as a leader.

From there, we set some agreements on working together. I let the team member know what I could offer through the current project that fit her goals. We could decide on a communication approach that worked for us both and on how we would gauge our progress along the way.

This conversation was a great way to set the stage for an open and effective working relationship. It allowed us to become more proactive about creating the right opportunities, and the team member understood that I was coming from a place of genuine interest in her goals and development.

Whether you’re working with a new team or an existing one, it’s never too late to ask some of these questions. This week, I challenge you to identify one conversation you’d like to have, or one question you would like to ask from the list above. You can find more ideas like this one in the chapter “Strategies to Create a High-Performing Team” in my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. Leadership Through a New Lens. Remember, small steps can lead to big results