May 2016

Stop Talking

Most of the leaders I coach will freely admit they need to listen better (and more often!).  What I don’t hear is an admission of the need to talk less.  And it stands to reason that if you’re listening, you’re not talking.   So the first step is to recognize your own ‘talking’ and ‘telling’ behaviors with your team.

Start Listening

Gavin was a classic example of a leader who felt that strong directions were the best approach to get the job done.  He feared  his team would be unable to perform without his direction and lots of ‘telling’.

I asked him if he could stop talking in his next staff meeting and simply focus on listening to his team. He agreed to this experiment and decided to open the staff meeting with a few good issue-focused, open-ended questions. 

Then he listened. 

A few of his staff members told him it was the best meeting they had ever had. The team had an opportunity to discuss critical issues from their perspective.

It was an eye-opener for Gavin, and it began his journey to loosen his need to talk and control.  He started to listen to understand the issues and challenges, and allow his team to manage the work.   As he continued to build his listening skills, his team became more productive with better results.

Ask (Good) Questions

As Gavin learned to listen – he began to ask better questions, and to pause before providing any of his answers.   He was able to observe how his team thought about issues and problem solving approaches.

Clearly the time it takes to go through the process of solving problems through employee input and discussion is well worth the effort the next time a similar situation occurs.

Exercises to Try

  1. For the next few weeks, track your ‘talking’ style and identify how much telling versus listening and asking that you do.  Especially track your talking behaviors in your meetings.  If you are doing all the talking, you have unconsciously trained your people to wait for your direction.  Encourage the team to participate in the discussion and come to the next meeting with possible solutions, ideas or next steps.
  2. Try asking one or two important questions in your next staff meeting designed to open the group to discuss real and perhaps invisible or underlying issues that may be preventing desired results.  If your team is not used to being asked open-ended questions, ask them to think about your questions in advance of the meeting.

Remember it's often the simple shifts that can make a huge difference.

"Silence is a source of great strength." — Lao Tzu

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The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website for details.

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