Bring out your TOOLkit

Let's get practical. It's highly possible that you'll do most of the speaking and the other person will say very little or may say a lot but none of it is relevant or particularly useful. 

As we've already established getting them engaged and involved in the process is critical to keeping them on track and to achieving real results afterwards. 

The following are 7 ways to get them engaged during the conversation: Use techniques to get them involved and keep their focus in the conversation.


Closed questions are ones that require only a 'yes' or 'no' response. 'Would you like a coffee?' 'Are you excited about watching the Sydney Swans on the weekend?' Obviously the answer to both of these is YES!

In tough conversations we can slip into default closed questions like, 'does that make sense?', 'are we clear on what needs to happen next?'.

Open questions on the other hand encourage more thoughtful responses. Aim to use open questions only, such as  'can you recap what our next steps are from here?', throughout the conversation (unless of course you are actually asking them if they would like a coffee). 


As you step into the tough conversations pay attention to how much of the talking you are doing versus how much talking the other person is doing. If it's heavily weighted your way, seek to get 'em talking more. Asking open questions is a great way to invite them into the discussion.

The following are a few other ways to make sure it is a two-way conversation, rather than just a one-sided info-mercial: 

  • Be okay with sitting in silence. You don't have to fill every second of the conversation. Silence is okay, and often encourages the other person to step in. 
  • Be curious. It is possible that there are pieces of the situation that you are not aware of. Be open to hearing other aspects, or even how your behaviour has possibly contributed to the current situation.


The physical movement of writing instantly moves someone from being passive to being active in the process. Encourage the other person to have a pen and paper with them for the conversation; and then get 'em to use it. Statements like 'this is worth jotting down to refer back to later' will encourage them to get active through writing.  


Research has found that when we have our arms crossed we retain 38% less information. So give the other person the best possible chance to take in everything from the conversation by encouraging open body language. You can do this subtly through stand up meetings, having them actively engaged in writing, or reading. 

Pay attention to their body language. The best way to get 'em open is to make sure your own body language is open, we often reflect the body language of the people around us.


When people come into conversations they know are going to be less than great they can 'assume the position'. Slouched down into an uncomfortable chair, arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed. 

Shift it up by getting 'em standing. Use whiteboards, posters, notices on the wall, or even looking at a computer screen with you both standing changes the dynamics of the conversation. 


Walk and talk meetings are becoming more popular in agile organisations. Brain science is now telling us that when we are moving we engage with the problem-solving and creative parts of our brains more. A greater flow of oxygen, as well as a move towards a three-point style of communication (both parties facing forward) all help to provide this as a great space to have these key conversations. 

Noise and other distractions can be a factor you need to take into account, as well as the fact that you limit the opportunity to write things down. Combining both an initial walk and talk with a rally back into an office space can solve this issue. 


You have grounded them into the conversation through asking open questions. It's also key to have them asking you questions. Encouraging a two-way conversation. Ask them; 'What questions do you have for me?' 

Remember that they may not have had as much opportunity to prepare questions for the meeting that you are having, so allow space to ask them if they have any questions 3-4 times throughout the conversation. 


There you have it 7 ways to get 'em engaged....but what do you do if you have a team that works remotely??? 

Glad you asked. Let's explore that in the next module.