Please Stop Talking about Work for 10 Minutes

Most of my conversations are agenda driven.

I’ve had conversations, in recent days, with leaders scattered around the world. And when I say conversations, I mean conversations WITHOUT an agenda.

Big problems make small talk seem irrelevant.

Water coolers:

Water-cooler-conversations don’t naturally happen when you go remote. You can’t read subtle indications of stress, joy, or sadness. You can’t say, “What’s up? You look a little down.”

Remember to care like you did when you were face-to-face, when you go remote.

No Time:

You might think you don’t have time to just talk. But you had time when you were face-to-face.

I spent 20 minutes in a conversation with a high-level leader and we didn’t have an agenda. (Imagine that!)

I typically ask, “What would you like to get out of our conversation today?” It’s a coaching question that manages expectations and clarifies outcomes. Thankfully, he said that he just wanted to talk for a few minutes. And we did.

We talked about the team, family, getting take-out for dinner, and more. (More on take-out below.) You might think it was an unfocused waste of time. But a short conversation to reconnect in the midst of turbulence re-energizes us.


Become intentional about things that used to be spontaneous when you go remote.

Schedule 10-minute check-ins. No agenda. The topic might be:

  • How are you doing?
  • What’s up with the kids?
  • Do you have enough toilet paper?
  • What’s going on outside work?
  • Tell me something good.

Tip: Have conversations on video as much as possible.

Small talk is big.

Short conversations that AREN’T about work energize people for work.

Back to take-out:

The server said his order was only the tenth of the day. He left a big tip. (That’s not the first time I’ve heard a big-tip story.)

Where do you need to become intentional about being spontaneous?