Leadership Skills for Conducting Motivational Dialogs

Marianne Slotboom
Mar 30, 2022

About having constructive conversations with your team members and motivating them towards higher performance.

Leadership skills need practice

This article gives you an overview of the leadership skills you need to apply when conducting motivational conversations with your team members.  

There are 4 different types of conversations or dialogs, depending on the level of motivation and competence of the team member. Every conversation needs particular leadership skills, based on the 4 leadership styles of the situational leadership theory.

Keep in mind that reading about these dialogs alone is not enough, and that you as well have to integrate and practice these leadership skills in your daily work activities to actually become comfortable with these. 

The directing dialog: giving clear instructions

This directing dialog is used when the team member is motivated, but still new in the task and probably unsure regarding the right execution of it.

  • Start the dialog with a short introduction about the goal, the context, the why and wherefore of the task.
  • Tell clearly what is expected of him or her during this dialog.
  • Provide clear instructions and a step by step description of the task, visualize if necessary.
  • If possible, demonstrate the task and have the person execute (part of) the task under supervision.
  • Indicate the quality requirements with which the execution has to comply.
  • Check if the task is understood with open ended questions like: "What are aspects that are not totally clear?", "What do you still need to know?".

Leadership skills for the training dialog: feedback

A training dialog is used when the team member is at a medium level of competence for the task but the motivation is dropping. It could be that he or she had some frustrating experiences or that the task is more difficult than expected. The goal of this conversation is to give constructive feedback and motivate the person towards a higher performance.

  • Start the conversation with a description of the situations and behaviors you have observed that you want the team member to improve.
  • Provide specific examples, like: "During the last meeting with the client, you said.... and I noticed that the client ....."
  • Check if the team member understands the effect of his or her behavior, clarify more if necessary.
  • Give a suggestion or ask for a suggestion to improve this behavior.
  • Agree on how to behave differently in the mentioned situations.
  • Set a time slot for a follow-up of this conversation and to talk about the improvements. This gives you the possibility to provide positive feedback about the improved behavior or insist more.

You can find a detailed description of how to give constructive feedback in our article "Mastering the art of giving feedback".

Leadership skills to improve feedback | Bright Leadership

Leadership skills to improve motivation

A participating dialog is needed when the team member is competent enough to do the task independently but somehow became insecure or has lost motivation to perform the task well. The goal of this conversation is to encourage this person to generate new ideas for a better performance of the task. The leader does not give quick solutions or direct suggestions as the team member has enough maturity to do this without help. Moreover, to increase motivation and security, it is very important that the team member comes up with his or her own solutions.

  • Start the conversation by exploring the situation and the problem. Describe what you have seen and ask questions with sincere curiosity. What is happening?
  • What would the team member like to be the result of this conversation as it comes to his or her performance?
  • Where would he/she like to achieve? What are the possibilities? Actions they could take? What are barriers? What could be the first step?
  • Practice active listening skills, summarize what you hear, inquire for suggestions and talk about the consequences of these solutions, until the team member has decided on some actions.
  • Agree on the follow-up of this conversation to measure the progress and give more support if necessary. 

Leadership skills to give trust and autonomy: delegating dialog

The delegating dialog is used when the team member has plenty of self-confidence, and is motivated and competent regarding the independent execution of the task. With regards to delegating, it is important that there is sufficient clarity about the desired results.  

The leader pays particular attention to the conditions and the degree of freedom required for a good execution of the task.If delegation is done properly, the team member will experience the agreed tasks as challenges which enables him or her to expand competence and experience.

  • Start the conversation with a clear description of the task to be delegated to the team member.
  • Agree on the desired result and time frame in which the task has to be completed.
  • Provide all the information the person needs for a right execution of the task.
  • Give trust, but at the same time establish - in agreement - moments for control and feedback.
  • Make clear when the team member has to inform you, regarding certain difficulties or situations.

All research on learning shows that in order to develop new skills you have to practice, reflect, and proceed step by step. I hope these guidelines will keep you on track towards being a great, motivational leader.

Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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