Voltaire was a Pretty Smart Guy – (Part I of a 4 Part Series)
François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, was a prolific writer, historian, and philosopher. He was a staunch believer in freedom of religion and freedom of speech, so I find it ironic that the words he spoke some 300 years ago can set you free as a leader, coach, and influencer today.
He once said: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” When it comes to The Art of Coaching Others, no truer words were spoken.
Many leaders feel the need to speak 80% of the time or more when they are engaged in conversations. They feel the need to have all the answers so they can guide the behaviors of their people in order to get what they want as quickly as possible. After all, they typically are very busy people.
I have spent countless coaching sessions with leaders who are frustrated and fed up with the fact that they have multiple conversations with their people and yet nothing changes. They talk at their people until they’re blue in the face thinking that the more words they use, the more influential they are and the deeper they are embedding their message into the neuropaths of their employees’ brains.
But, let me share with you a little secret: When you are talking at someone, their brain has a tendency to wander; the more you talk, the more you open your words up to their interpretations of what you are saying to them. The more you say, the more they interpret. Chances are, if they are in disagreement with what you’re telling them, they are coming up with rebuttals along the way. You end up losing their attention because most people never pause to make sure the person they are communicating with is on the same page.
Again, think of the telephone message game, in which one person whispers a phrase into the ear of the person next to them. By the time you get to the end of the line (twenty people later) the message has been so distorted it is totally irrelevant. Picture that the next time you keep talking at your team members, and figure that every minute you talk nonstop represents one more person you’re trying to pass the message through.
The other thing that happens when the other person isn’t coming up with rebuttals or misinterpreting your message, is that they completely disengage themselves or distract themselves from the conversation because they are not actively participating. Not because they necessarily want to, but because you haven’t given them a reason to be engaged.
Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with someone when they spoke ad nauseum and you totally checked out? Why? Well, your team members are no different, even if you believe that what you have to say is critically important, or you are the boss and that they have to or are supposed to listen. They’re not!
If you are having a conversation with someone, especially when it is an uncomfortable topic like poor performance, chances are they will want to do everything in their power to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. In those instances, they might just be agreeing to get out. Most people don’t like feeling or being uncomfortable.
If you want them to engage in a two-way interaction, you need to shift your approach from telling to asking.
Tomorrow – Questioning Your Approach – Part 2
(This is an excerpt from Joe’s Latest Book Extraordinary Results, Mastering the Art of Leading, Coaching, & Influencing Others)