Knowing when to speak and when to hold back
To talk or not to talk, that’s the question for new managers.
Our company had turned 16. And we were holding multiple brainstorming sessions to identify growth patterns. The ideas flowed thick and fast. As more and more voices made themselves heard, it became clear to me that the best thing I could do was not to keep on speaking as the “founder” but to listen.
The moment I sat back and listened deeply, as I had learnt to do from my teacher, Swami Parmarthananda, I learnt so much more. I was able to let go of a whole line of business activity which was sapping leadership energy, start a new one that is in sync with our core service of offering business cultural immersions for expat delegations. Into the first quarter of 2011, we are a much happier and productive team.
So this month I am writing about five areas where it’s best for young managers to remain silent and five other areas in which they should speak up — insights which have helped me a great deal.
L GAME is the mnemonic to remember for silence
‘L’ simply stands for listen more. It truly helps one gather more information than would have been possible if you didn’t hold back your words and give your team members a chance to speak and hold your attention. It makes the other person feel you care as a manager and that his opinion counts, as you take notes or nod attentively. It also shows an important quality that all managers must not just have but also demonstrate — empathy.
A client told me how he had listened to his executive assistant letting off steam about an irate caller which made her feel valued.
‘G’ is for avoiding gossip. As a leader there will be many willing to carry stories from the grapevine. Don’t believe them unless you witness it yourself. Remain silent. When someone says, ‘She called him an idiot,’ don’t say ‘Is that so?’ or ‘I agree, he is a bit of an idiot’ or even ‘I don’t think he is an idiot, do you?’ Whatever you say will be ably reported back by this same nimble gossipmonger!
‘A’ is for arguments. We never hear of a “cool” argument, do we? It is always a “heated” argument. So this phenomenon definitely creates heat and heartburn. The moment you see the temperature rising, rise from your chair, excuse yourself or say you will discuss this in a few minutes. Walk up to the water dispenser, pretend you have to take an urgent call, whatever, but do not speak in this mode. Silence is the only defence to ensure you do not regret your words.
‘M’ is for monologue. As a leader, you could easily fall into the trap of your own greatness and enjoy the sound of your own voice. Don’t continue to speak beyond a couple of minutes and don’t say the same thing in two or even three different ways. Let’s not justify ourselves by saying, ‘Well she looks like she didn’t get it, so I just clarified.’ Everyone is smart enough and everyone gets it. If they look blank, simply ask, ‘Would you mind telling me in your own words what we have just discussed, so that we are on the same page?’ And let them talk…
‘E’ is for emotional outbursts that usually happen in haste and one repents for in leisure. Don’t fall into that trap — silence is the only tool to help manage rising emotions. What goes up must come down, so the spike will come back to normality, till then let’s not speak.
‘How do you expect me to manage without speaking?’ you ask. ‘I have been hired for my superior communication skills, you know!’
True, speech is mandatory in some situations and if we only remember Sir Isaac Newton’s first name, we can easily figure out when to open our mouths and speak up as leaders.
‘IS’ stands for information sharing. Speak up and give your team full word pictures of the purpose of doing something, the picture of how it will look when it is done, and their individual roles in it.
‘A’ is to acknowledge what they say verbally. People need to hear you say you hear them, they can’t guess the way your mind’s working. Make listening sounds, echo their words to them… “So you feel that we will do fine if we use this method? Okay, let’s try it Madhav, I am always willing to trust your judgement.”
‘A’ is to appreciate vocally what they do for you and the organisation. In this situation, sign language and silence do not work.
In Dale Carnegie’s words, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” It doesn’t swell your ego, it only swells potential. I am a big believer of this even though I have been questioned for it throughout my life.
‘C’ is to connect more by speaking to each person one-on-one. Words are a must to build relationships. Know the person behind the professional, her aspirations, his interests, her life, skills and desires. And share your own stories too. It keeps the human touch.
With ISAAC LGAME you can speak silently and the world is yours.
(The writer is Founder CEO of Global Adjustments, a relocation and cross-cultural services company. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
|This entry was posted by Global Indian on June 12, 2011 at 11:39 PM, and is filed under Business Line column for the New Manager by Ranjini Manian. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.|
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