“I can be quiet longer than you”

I had the privilege to work with an experienced leader and coach in a recent workshop.  Sharon had many years of coaching experience, and embraced me as a new coach to her team with open arms.  We affectionately called her “Yoda.”  I admit, at first, I did not understand the reference, but after finally watching Star Wars, I agreed.  She was so good at teaching through self-discovery.  Sharon taught me and the leaders around her a lot.  The biggest takeaway I had was leadership is a dialogue.  It’s not a one-way communication, but a two-way discussion.

Here’s Sharon’s story.

As with all of my leadership training sessions, we have a class graduation at the conclusion.  As no surprise, our “Yoda” presented on communication.  She acted out a common scenario that leaders wrestle with their team members.  It was giving an employee constructive feedback.  She comically showed us what we usually do – we subtly mention constructive feedback, sandwiching it with positive feedback, confusing team members.

Then, she showed us what good looked like with these tips:  1) asking open-ended questions, 2) actively listening, then, 3) doing something with the information

  1. By making it a dialogue, leaders can weave in open-ended questions to get team members to self-discover what they can improve on. Note, if self-awareness is a challenge, being clear up front on desired behaviors is key.
  2. Active listening to what the team member says is critical. As a leader, we need to be quiet.  Make it a game with yourself.  Say to yourself, “I can be quite longer than you,” in your head.  It’s fun, I promise.
  3. What happens next is the tricky part. The doing part.  Now that you have this fantastic information from the team member, you have to do something with it.  That could be noting it as a follow up item for a later date, sharing an update with another team member, or making a change to a process or protocol.  People like to feel like their input is valuable.  It reinforces that they were heard.

For your next one-on-one with a team member, consider these questions to start the dialogue:

  • Who has been your favorite leader in the past, and why?
  • How do you prefer to get feedback?
  • What types of work do you most enjoy?

Leaders that make it a dialogue with their teams have better business results.

How do you make it a dialogue?

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