TalentLeadership DevelopmentLeadership and development in a digital era – why conversation is still key

Leadership and development in a digital era - why conversation is still key

In a age of digital disruption and transformation, Kate Turner, Director, Motivational Leadership speaks about how conversation is still the key.

Whilst technology and the digital age is key to making a business work, Kate Turner, Director, Motivational Leadership talks about the importance of maintaining conversations with your team. 


We live in a digital era, that much is undeniable. We can get instant access to whatever we need, whenever and wherever we need it online. Frankly the opportunities are endless. We have technology to help us connect, collaboration tools to allow us to work smartly and efficiently, processes to allow us to speed up and streamline workloads, and even technology to deliver remote training courses to further develop our team members. Clearly embracing technology as an organisation is essential on so many levels and it can be vital in developing team members and bringing teams together, especially if they work remotely.

However, whilst businesses who put digital front and centre are clearly thriving, they must be careful not to miss out on some of the key elements that make the people within those businesses tick as well. What do I mean by this? Well what I mean is, ensuring they nurture and develop that team personally (away from technology), ensuring each and every team member remains engaged and most importantly understanding what motivates those team members.

Whilst some of this can be done remotely or perhaps using technology (such as surveys, eLearning or psychometric profiling), technology can only go so far. Because in this instance – that of understanding their true motivations – nothing will quite beat the value of good conversation.

The key is for the manager to have meaningful and explicit conversations with their team about what truly drives them. And this isn’t simply asking, ‘what motivates you?’. Rather, motivation is a feeling. It operates in that part of our brain which doesn’t have words and so by asking a direct question like this, it’s likely we will simply engage our rational and logical brain. We need questions which go to the heart of what drives us. Questions which elicit feelings. Likewise, managers shouldn’t presume that they know what may motivate someone simply because of the life stage that individual is in. A classic example of this would be wrongly assuming a mum returning to work after maternity leave would simply be motivated by flexibility. It could be quite the opposite.

Having this kind of conversation is good practice anyway, but for some reason, too many managers leave working out what drives their team to chance conversations or presume (wrongly) they can work out what motivates someone by simply looking at their behaviour or monitoring them from afar. Ultimately if speed (enabled by technology) allows us to hang out in chat rooms or text and WhatsApp each other, we might find we skip along the surface of getting to know someone, rather than lingering long enough to find out what drives them. Rather when a manager has true conversations with a team member about their motivations, they are sending a very clear message that they care. This is a leading factor in employee engagement. Having explicit conversations about motivations puts this essential ingredient of employee performance ‘on the table’ and means that rather than motivation being seen as some result of happenstance, it can actually be a factor of performance which can be deliberately measured and maximised. Furthermore, by making the implicit explicit, it encourages employees to take responsibility for what drives them.

By aligning the motivators of a team member to their objectives, they will have the energy to deliver on their work and stay within the organisation. In addition, when someone works with the grain of their motivators, they can’t help but release discretionary effort – the holy grail of productivity improvement in business. Meeting people’s motivations is, therefore, a win:win for organisations and individuals alike. It is when we don’t deliver on this that people may well leave the business, or perhaps worse still, stay within the organisation, but with a sour taste in their mouth, ultimately impacting other employees with their negativity.

Interestingly though, even through good questioning, our own unconscious biases can come through and we can often hear words and presume what they mean. And this is where the technology comes into its own. So in the same way that we use psychometric profiling for understanding behaviours, there are also good digital tools to measure motivation and identify what drives people.

Ultimately like anything, a balance is going to be essential. Clearly technology can help to bring us together and collaborate, it can also be incredibly beneficial if used as a diagnostic in the form of Maps or similar, but it will need to be used carefully and alongside human interactions. Certainly, there will be no better tool than the manager having a conversation with their team member. As such, I encourage all managers and team leaders to really get to understand their team’s individual motivations and unveil what truly matters to them. Get motivation right and everything else will follow, including employee engagement and ensuring a better company culture. And remember, when people love that they do, they do it so much better.

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