Talk business to me, baby!

Alyson Van Hooser, Author, Speaker, Professional Development Trainer

Hear from Van Hooser at TBA’s 133rd Annual Meeting. Register at

Losing great employees may be your greatest competitive threat. Attracting, truly engaging, and retaining ecstatic employees can be your greatest advantage.

Differentiate yourself from those poaching your employees by strategically and authentically aligning your leadership with the post-pandemic workforce. The future of work is not just tech and artificial intelligence. Instead, leadership that effectively connects and engages with employees will be more important than ever.

Look for Clues

One-on-one time with my husband the other night didn’t quite turn out the way I originally thought it would.

Joe and I have four kids, including an infant, Holt. Sleep is often hard to come by in our house. And adult alone time? Well, we’re in this wild season of life where we reminisce about past memories alone together where we did really crazy things… things like eating our dinner while it was still hot!

Baby Holt still wakes up during the night so usually, when she goes down around 9:00 p.m., we do, too. Every extra minute of sleep is priceless in this season of life, right?! But Joe and I are missing each other because we’ve been so focused on the kids, so we’re making an effort to make time for each other.

A few nights ago, after laying Holt down then crawling out of the room like a ninja (Parents, you know what I am talking about!), I gently shut the door, ran quietly on my tiptoes to the living room and found my husband working on his laptop.

As I came in the room he shut the computer as if to signal that he was shifting from working to date-night. This was our time – we had both agreed on this earlier in the day. As he closed his computer, I casually asked what he was working on. After a minute or two of intently listening to him discuss a work project, I jumped up and said, “Hold on! Pause! I want to hear this. But let me get a snack!”

Opened the fridge. Checked the pantry. With arms full of all the good stuff, I walked back into the living room, offered him a snack, sat down close to him, and said with a wink and a slick smile on my face, “Talk business to me, baby!” And that statement right there was a clue that something has changed here.

People Have Changed

“Did I really just say that?”, I thought to myself.

I did! And, I meant it…even if it sounded silly. We both laughed. It’s funny because I never pictured myself being someone who preferred a conversation on business, leadership, strategic planning, etc. versus playing a game, watching a movie, etc.

But, we’ve been together for a while. I’ve changed…what I enjoy, what inspires me, and what refuels me has changed. Because of that, our goals have changed…how we enjoy spending time together has changed, what we do for fun has changed, and so on. We often discuss how we’ve evolved individually and collectively. Those intentional conversations allow us to interact and connect with each other on a deeper level and we’re stronger because of it.

Innocent, Incorrect Assumptions

As humans, we all change over time. Consider your team. They’ve likely individually and collectively changed over time in some way, whether it be a person’s goals, wants, needs, motivations, or skills.

The challenge at work comes from the assumption that because you’ve worked with someone for so long, you innocently assume you know still understand what they need from you in order to be happy, to stay, and go all-in with the team. But it’s assumptions like these that create a breeding ground for high turnover and low employee engagement.

Is it possible that changes have occurred among you and your employees that not everyone is aware of?

No one on the team may realize changes have occurred until it’s too late…when one day you wake up and two really great people are just not doing it for each other so you decide to go your separate ways—you end up with employees who quit and leave, or worse, quit and stay — unless you have intentional discussions.

New Year, New Conversations

As we begin 2023, now is the time to talk with your people to discuss changes over the past year to make sure you know
EXACTLY what must be done to lead them well and continually earn their loyalty and best performance.

Here are some questions to help kickstart the conversation:

– How have your priorities changed over the past year or two?

– Have you found any new ways to relieve stress or have fun this year?

– What did you enjoy most about your work this year?

– What do you wish you had more time to work on?

– How can I help you be more successful in accomplishing what you want in 2023?

Intentional team communication focused on creating and maintaining a mutual understanding of each other allows people to work better together. So, get to talking. More importantly, get to listening.

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