What can you do as a leader?


Rune Bang Puggaard & Rikke Sick Børgesen Hoffmann

REAL conversations

If we take a closer look at the anatomy of these conversations, there are three key elements that make a conversation REAL: relationship, content and presence.

  • Relationship: The relationship is essential to the conversation. It may have developed over an intensive period of informal and consecutive time together where we had the opportunity to explore common interests, share views and laugh about shared experiences. Or it might be completely new, which requires time and attention.
  • Content: When the content of a conversation is engaging, it often touches upon a greater purpose. These conversations contribute to feeling a deeper sense of belonging to others and support our sense of mastery.
    And when we explore new ways of doing something that makes us grow or gets us out of a deadlock, it is our own choice to do so. These conversations often make us feel seen and appreciated for something we are good at.
  • Presence: Presence is essential to create room for listening and sharing joys and concerns that are important here and now. Often, we also see an equal alternation between listening and sharing. Presence is about being in the present moment with the other person – not thinking about what happened in the previous meeting and not being engaged in planning for the next.
    We call these conversations “REAL conversations”. REAL stands for: Relate, Engage, Appreciate and Listen.

But what can leaders do to create more REAL conversations? We will take a closer look at this in the following sections.

The content must support three needs

Leaders have an important task and responsibility for creating conversations that connect employees and teams. In addition to social deprivation, leaders and employees may experience an inability to act in the same way as they normally would, and their freedom of movement is limited.

In times like these, leaders and employees are impacted on three basic psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000):

  • Feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness with others (relatedness).
  • Feeling in control of our own behaviour and personal goals (autonomy).
  • Feeling a sense of mastery and effectiveness in what we do (competence).

These three needs are fundamental in developing and maintaining intrinsic motivation. By stimulating them, we can help create motivation; and when satisfying them, we enable employees to better adapt to new demands and situations.

To work constructively with motivation, you might consider:

  • Giving choices in relation to tasks, assignments and decisions. Trust the employee and delegate whenever you can. Ask for their perspectives and ask open-ended and curious questions: “What do you think about this solution?” or “How would you like to be involved going forward?”
  • Highlighting strengths and paying attention to how skills are used to support new tasks: “I have noticed that you are already using the online platform” or ”You are doing a good job in integrating new habits of working from home and offering your assistance to assignments in the department.”
  • Promoting social behaviour that creates a sense of unity and attachment: “You provide constructive input in our virtual team meetings.”