You lead a team. Or do you? You have this unsettling feeling that you could be getting more out of your team, but struggle with how. You tell them you want their input, but you lead staff meetings by doing most of the talking or the talking is merely reporting out, not solving problems. That, and most of the good ideas are yours.
Transform Your Exhaustion Into Excitement!
Let’s face it, leading can be exhausting. And, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s not just the responsibility, it’s that you seem to have to go it alone – thinking through many of the execution logistics that you’d rather not. Isn’t that why you have a team?
Here’s the thing: Leadership can be fun and exciting! Yes, I promise you it can be. Imagine a world in which you get what you ask for and more. Imagine that your team members outperform and outdo. Wow!
It’s Both Simple And Easy!
All you have to do is listen. This is simple and can be easy, if you employ a few tricks.
- 80/20 Rule: Deliberately only talk 20 percent of the time. Yup, that means you listen 80 percent of the time.
- Be Curious: Even if you think what the other person is saying is complete rubbish, remember that you might learn something. That something will either save the day, in which case you’ll be grateful you did listen, or it’ll reveal some misguided assumptions or reasoning. If it’s the latter, you now have a good opportunity to mentor.
Maximize The Listening Process
- Ask a Targeted Open-Ended Question: If you’re a leader, you need to rely on team members’ differing skills and knowledge. And, if you don’t fully avail yourself of their skills and knowledge, you’re wasting valuable resources. An open-ended question is designed to elicit and support a person’s best thinking and cannot be answered “yes” or “no”, with a simple bit of information, or from a list of options. Tip: begin your questions with “what,” “how,” or “when.” Avoid “why” because it can trigger defensiveness.
- Listen: Here’s where the 80/20 Rule and being curious come into play. You really do have to listen, without interrupting. If you know you won’t be able to help yourself and staying curious, isn’t enough. Have a cup of coffee or bottle of water with you. Whenever you want to jump in, take a sip. This will ensure that you’ve given your colleague sufficient time to finish thoughts and share thinking.
- Ask Another Targeted Open-Ended Question: You’ve listened, you’ve mustered the necessary curiosity, now follow up with another targeted open-ended question, and listen again.
By supporting others’ best thinking, you’ve just transformed your leadership skills in five minutes!
If you want to learn more about strategically and effectively using questions by following the coaching model, read last week’s blog post on coaching called The Secret to Amping Up Your Indispensability and Executive Presence.
If you want to learn what might get in the way of listening, download What Gets In the Way of Listening, which is excerpted from The Workplace Toolkit: Actionable Approaches to People Problems.
If you find this useful please share with your colleagues and friends and let us know what you done to improve your leadership! And, if you are in the DC area and would like to learn coaching skills, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation to the Workforce Management Lecture Series on December 6, in which we’ll be teaching professionals how to amp up their indispensability and executive presence through coaching.