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Unlocking the Secret Sauce: A Guide to Transformative Team Conversations in 2024

January 25, 2024

One of our favorite sayings at AG Collaborative is: Your people are your secret sauce. I believe that with my whole heart and the entirety of my experience. But sometimes that secret sauce can feel hard to access—maybe you see the potential, but doubt you are really getting the best from your employees. As we enter 2024, we invite you to carve out time to plan how you will develop your team this year. Below, you will find suggested rhythms and tools to deepen relationships with your people. As your relationships deepen, you will see increased levels of trust, engagement and overall productivity.

Gallup has thankfully conducted some—or rather HEAPS of—research on this topic. They have identified “5 Conversations that Foster Teamwork in the Workplace” to maximize their impact. I love how this approach identifies and clarifies interactions with your people.

In this article, I provide resources to empower you to have each of these conversations. We want you to feel that stepping into these rhythms and interactions are doable and actionable. Here are some tools and resources to support you in each and every one of these five conversations you have with your people. Use the QR code to access the Conversation Tools document:

Resource QR code from AG Collaborative

1. Role and Relationship Conversation: The Foundation for Performance and Development

In this initial conversation with your team members, you align on expectations for their role, how they fit into the larger organizational picture and goals towards their success. It is immensely helpful as a leader in this con- versation to have awareness and language that amplifies your unique approach and perspective. Knowing who you are colors your expectations, and your style enables you to provide more clarity for your people.

It is also helpful to know your team members’ greatest talents and assets, in order to select goals that best utilize what they are bringing to the table. Using the language of Clifton Strengths, a tool that helps establish your natural talent, can be a great resource in this conversation. By unlocking both your strengths and that of your team, you will have a shared language and framework.

Use the Role + Relationship Conversations as a guide (access via QR code).

2. Quick Connect: Engaging Conversation

Quick connects are informal human connection points— think water cooler or coffee pot chats. These conversations are summed up well by Theodore Roosevelt’s sentiment: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While the naive person may refer to these casual connections as “fluff,” the seasoned people leader knows that connecting is the literal glue that holds a team together. Without them, engagement and motivation plummets.

If you don’t know where to start, we have gathered a list of questions to have in your back pocket, located on the Quick Connect page. Better yet, print it out and keep one of these pages for each of your team members. As you get to know each person more, keep this file updated. Use the Quick Connect page as a guide (access via QR code).

3. Check-In: Discuss Priorities and Progress

The check-in is the more formal one-on-one many man- agers are familiar with. A solid rhythm for these check-ins is at least once a month for 30-60 minutes with each employee. These check-ins are an excellent time to get progress updates and ask about barriers to the goals and priorities of each team member.

These check-ins offer a natural way to hold accountability on goals, i.e., “Did you do what you said you would do last time we met? And if not, what kept you from doing so?” It’s also a great opportunity to offer coaching and mentoring through obstacles.

We’ve included the Check-In page to keep notes from one check-in to the next. A faithful holding of these meetings on your part will help your team feel supported and provide them with steady progress towards their goals, so they feel motivated and engaged in the work. If you could use some ideas to help you interact with your team members regarding their struggles, try asking some of the questions from the Powerful Questions page to get them thoughtfully exploring their issues.

Use the Check-In page as a guide (access via QR code).

4. Developmental Coaching: In-the-Moment Feedback

This fourth conversation is all about providing employees with meaningful feedback in real time that they can use to develop and perform. This requires us as leaders to pay attention to our people, as well as a willingness to share with them what we see. This type of feedback is hugely important. A Gallup article found that employees who reported they had received “meaningful feedback” in the last week conveyed being engaged at a rate of FOUR times higher than those who did not receive meaningful feedback in the last week.

But what makes feedback “meaningful?” And how do you offer feedback to your team in a way that they will hear you? These are questions that can feel sticky for leaders.

Use the Meaningful Feedback page as a guide (access via QR code).

5. Progress on Goals: Achievements and Future Growth

This final conversation invites your team to reflect on the past and paint a vision for the future. You will want to connect with your people in this way every six months or year. In addition to other performance review items you cover with them, this conversation offers your team the opportunity to celebrate successes, name challenges and set the tone for the season ahead. This conversation enables you to tap into what matters to each team member in the near and long term, and to align on the what, how and WHY of their next season of work. This con- versation can leave your employees feeling supported, invested in and excited about what lies ahead for them and the team.

Use the ten questions on the Achievement + Future Growth page as an outline for this conversation. You can provide these questions ahead of time and ask them to bring their responses to your meeting, or you can ask them while in your conversation.

These five conversations can be A LOT to initiate all at once, so start small. Pick one of these conversations to put into practice. Once that rhythm is established, select another. Team culture is built over the long haul—think marathon, not sprint. Slow down, pace yourself and be present with your staff. You’ve got this, and here at AG Collaborative we’ve got your back. At any point if you would like support in how to unlock the secret sauce that is your people, reach out. We’d love to connect! www.agcollaborative. com.


By Kat Schulte; originally published in SBAM’s January/February 2024 issue of FOCUS magazine

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