Many of my clients collect feedback from others that they talk too quickly when they are involved in a conversation. Even before their colleague is finished making a statement, my client is already answering the question or discussing next steps. My clients receive feedback they they need to listen more, think more, and contribute more meaningfully.
If you are an impatient, fast-talker, one way to demonstrate better listening is to use the the “power of the pause.” Before responding to the comments of a colleague, you add a step to the conversation – you pause. The pause is a subtle way to give your mind more time to think about what you are hearing, who you are hearing it from, and to listen more before speaking.
The best way to create a pause is to ask a question of your colleague so you can collect additional information. As Steven Covey is known for saying, “You need to seek first to understand, and then be understood.”
Pausing is not a delay nor a time to not listen. You want to collect more information by pausing and provide you additional time to slow… down… your… mind.
Here are some sample questions you might consider to help you pause your conversations and be seen as a better leader.
More information questions
- Can you tell me more about what you are thinking?
- What do you need in order to make progress?
- What problem is this idea seeking to solve?
Making progress questions
- How can I help you think through this to help you make this work?
- What is your next step?
- What is the next step to make progress?
Getting colleagues to think for themselves questions
- What have you done in similar situations in the past?
- If this occurred to someone else, what advice would you give them?
- What are the broader implications/risks of doing this now?
Moving forward questions
- What would you do differently next time? Why?
- How will you make the changes you identified?
Over the last two weeks, I have heard three people encourage their listeners to get uncomfortable. At first glance, getting uncomfortable does not seem like good advice. You always try to get comfortable as you nestle in to watch a movie. You frequently choose clothing that feels comfortable. And what about comfort food?
Yet, getting uncomfortable is a great way to evolve and grow. One of the speakers I heard used iron as an analogy to clarify how being uncomfortable can help. When iron is cold, it is virtually unbendable. When iron is heated to a very high temperature (and seemingly uncomfortable), you can bend the iron into any shape that you want.
Working to raise your visibility and value requires you to get uncomfortable. Perhaps you need to speak with your boss in ways you have not held conversations before. Maybe you need to ask to lead a project team that is outside of your work group. Possibly asking your CFO or CIO out for a cup of coffee makes you feel uncomfortable.
Whatever actions you have designed to raise your visibility and value in your organization and industry, many of these actions will force you to get uncomfortable. That is okay. It is the outcome of the interaction on which you should focus, not how you felt creating the action in the first place.
Many of the clients with whom I work only collect feedback during their annual performance appraisal (if they get one at all). The idea of asking for feedback on their own time table never crosses their minds.
Why wait! I encourage many of my clients to ask their boss, key colleagues, and their subordinates the million dollar question – “What are 1 – 2 things I could be doing differently to be more successful?”
Why is this the million dollar question?
- It’s simple.
- It’s positive.
- It’s focused on the future.
- Folks react better to the word “differently” versus the word “better” as these folks don’t feel they are judging you or telling you something you are doing is bad.
- It is a great way to build relationships with key colleagues.
- It is focused on success!
When is the last time you collected feedback from your boss, your colleagues, or your subordinates? If it has been more than 30 days, it is time to ask the million dollar question.
I have a habit when I write or respond to emails from a client. Like most habits, I thought this was something everyone does and I did not pay a lot of attention to the habit, until recently.
When speaking with the boss of one of my clients, he mentioned how important “grace notes” were in crafting an email. I asked him what a grace note is. He said, “it is when you start a business email with a softer, more personal tone, rather than just jumping into business. It helps calm folks down and helps you build great relationships.” Not only did I tell my client’s boss that I thought grace notes was a brilliant idea, creating grace notes is something that I have done naturally for years. Here are some ways I use grace notes.
On Monday or Tuesday, I start every email with:
- “Hi Bob. I hope you had a great weekend!” or “I hope you had fun with weekend” or “I hope your week is starting off well.”
On Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, I start every email with:
- “Hi Sarah. I hope your week is going well” or “I hope you are having a great week” or “Yeah! It’s hump-day!”
On Thursday or Friday, I start every email with:
- “Hi Karen. I hope you’ve had a great week!” or “Another week has flown by! Can you believe it?” or “I hope you’ve got big plans this weekend.”
Regardless of the day of the week, to whom I am crafting the email, or generally the topic at hand, I always include a grace note in my emails.