In a week or two, I'll be guest blogging at www.smartbusinessblog.biz. Here's a free preview. :)
For most of us, talking is a heck of a lot more fun than listening. And when managers speak with their subordinates, the instinct to inject comments or answer questions before they’ve really been asked can be powerful. What better opportunity to show off your hard-won skills and knowledge?
But too often when you think you’ve been helpful, you’ve actually thrown away the opportunity to develop a great new idea or gather some useful feedback. The most effective, respected managers realize that what they have to say is almost always far less valuable than what their subordinates have to say to them. At best, doing too much of the talking can quash the opportunity to build a trusted bond with a team member. At worst, it can be disastrous.
In my book, Shutting Up!, I discuss numerous situations in which it is imperative for managers to let others do the talking… plus techniques to help you actually do the shutting up. For example:
1-on-1 Talks. Bite your tongue… literally. Sit on your hands. Do anything to stop yourself from talking. Let the other person get it all out. And understand that even when you think they’re done, they’re probably not! Wait for it. Or ask a probing question. Then see what happens. Chances are, the real meat of the matter is a lot different than what you expected.
Assigning Tasks. When you delegate, don’t dive into the what, how, when, and why of the job before asking your workers what they know about it. If your team already understands what’s up, you’ll save everyone time and build mutual respect.
Responding to Questions. Don’t let your workers off easy by feeding them all the answers. Instead, ask them, “What do you think we should do?” and guide them as they figure out the answers themselves. You’ll be amazed how fast your people grow into more effective, self-sufficient workers.
Don’t Hijack Meetings! Ask for everyone else’s thoughts before you inject your own. When you speak first, it’s too easy to push your team into going along with your ideas. But the best idea just may not be yours.
Making Estimates. Instead of telling your team how long they have to get things done, ask them to tell you how long they need. When your people make the estimate, they own it. And they’ll do everything in their power to come through as promised.