Tips to be a great conversationist with leaders

It is that time of the year of more talk and less action. The politicians are competing in giving promises. The ear of a

It is that time of the year of more talk and less action. The politicians are competing in giving promises. The ear of a desperate man (and woman) will accept anything that gives hope. When you hear the same thing several times, you end up believing it! Many politicians know this.

As a consultant, we are trained to talk. I used to think that when you get face time with the customer, you impress them by talking much to unleash your intellectual firepower. That is the wrong approach. To become a great conversationist you need to master the art of listening.

Winners talk less, ask more questions. They listen more.

Many people love talking about themselves, their businesses, and their passion. Many times, leaders are always listening to other people’s dreams and aspirations. They also yearn for an ear that pays attention to their message and story. Great conversationalists have follow-up questions that dig deep into the same subject – a mile deep instead of a mile wide on the topic. They exhibit three distinct skills:

  1. Dig deep into the same subject or topic under discussion, to follow details instead of generalities
  2. Have an open mind – are not afraid to be vulnerable to not knowing; so they ask questions even when they seem to ask about obvious issues
  3. Point out interesting revelations in the conversation that create a personal bond, as they dig deep and make highlights of the key talking points.

When I started Summit Consulting Ltd, it was not easy to find customers. We did not yet have a strong brand name in the market. You would enter into one’s office, and after exchanging hellos, the prospects ask: what is Summit Consulting? What do you guys do? Selling professional services to a client who has never heard about your brand is one of the toughest mountains to climb. You not only have to demonstrate competence and capabilities, but you must also show credibility which is built over time with a track record and not instant.

To overcome this challenge, I founded the Summit Business magazine. With this publication, we were able to provide an informed analysis of contemporary business opportunities and one-on-one conversations with business leaders. It was a great innovation. During my time as Managing Editor of Summit Business, I held several interviews with captains of the businesses. In addition to the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – the 5 Ws and H of journalism, I focused on showing interest in the CEO’s insights and digging deeper to understand their underlying justifications for business moves.

To dig deep in the same subject, means you stick to the same topic under discussion instead of jumping off to a new issue altogether. The magic revelations happen when you go deep. Once asking the CEO of a bank, I asked, “why is your cost to income ratio high above the industry average?” He explained many things about the investments being made, and how transforming from a brick and motor to digital involves lots of costs including retirement support and transition for staff. He said in the short term, costs are high. However, as we move to leverage digital and become nimble and agile in the long run, the CTI will be reduced.  Then, I made a follow-up question and asked, how do your business model and portfolio mix affect your cost to income. He shared different insights altogether.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr. Strategy 2020. All rights reserved.

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