Make the first move. The person who initiates the move toward greater candor and transparency has to give a preview of what it looks like. This does not mean launching into immediate criticisms but rather using intros like, “This is hard for me, and I’m a little worried about how this is going to go over, but because I care about the work we’re doing, I want us to start having more meaningful conversations.”
Coach through questions. Research has found that ideas are often sparked by asking the right questions. A semi-structured approach works better for promoting innovation than unrestricted brainstorming. In short:the more thought and care put into your questions, the greater the value of the answers you’ll elicit.
Invoke the larger vision. If a conversation starts to veer off course or get bogged down in messy details, nudge it back into line by invoking a larger shared goal: “We’re having this conversation because we’re devoted to delivering a world-class customer experience, and you and I are both integral to making that vision a reality.”
Conclude with a promise. At the end of every candid conversation, it should be clear what the next steps are. Restate briefly what you’re taking away from the conversation, and if there’s any action item on your plate, restate your commitment to act and, if appropriate, include a rough date for when you hope to pick up the conversation. This maintains the relationship momentum and affirms that the contents of the conversation were important enough to warrant follow-up.