“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”
~ Doug Larson
Kevin is on the management fast track at a Fortune 500 company. He’s outgoing, friendly, never met a stranger. He sees himself as a real deal-maker. Yet a lot of people in Kevin’s world routinely keep their distance when he enters the room. Even some of his clients seem to shut down when he’s around. He doesn’t quite understand why others don’t see him the same way he sees himself.
In his recent 360 review, ten stakeholders did provide quality feedback to Kevin. These insights began to shed some light on the situation. Frankly, he just talks too much. His co-workers and managers see him as a bit of a phony, maybe someone who’s not as smart as he thinks he is, even as someone who’s not to be trusted. The main message he heard in the feedback was to talk less and listen more.
Kevin realized he needed to make some immediate changes. His first thought was “hire an executive coach” and he did exactly that. He knew that getting advice and feedback from a neutral third party could speed up and enhance his process of personal change dramatically.
Kevin’s coach was very specific. “In order to project confidence and speak with authority, you need to talk less and listen more. What you have, Kevin, (to quote Cool Hand Luke) is a failure to communicate.” Within a week after his executive coach was hired, the two of them created this 4-step plan:
1. For at least the first two weeks, don’t speak up in meetings at all, unless someone addresses you directly. Listen and take notes instead.
2. For the next two weeks, when you’re with clients or in a meeting, don’t speak up or offer opinions unless someone asks you. Instead ask questions, such as “Where did you find that information?” or “What do you think the outcome of that strategy would be?” Take notes on the answers.
3. Cultivate relationships with senior managers whose attitude and behavior you admire. Spend time with them and begin to model your communication style after theirs. Schedule regular coffee dates or informal meetings and ask for their advice and feedback.
4. After practicing the listening strategy for a month, gradually begin to speak up in meetings, offer new ideas to clients, and make low-key comments in groups or with other co-workers. Keep notes about how others are reacting to you now and adjust your strategy accordingly. Always, however, emphasize listening over speaking.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Kevin’s executive coach told him. “And this is what you hired me for! People don’t listen to you because they are too accustomed to your having something to say for every occasion. When you make a habit of talking less (or not at all), you’ll get their attention immediately when you do speak up.”
Six months later, Kevin felt that his implementation of the 4-step plan had totally changed how he was perceived in the company. He had his strategy of talking less and listening more.
Are the people you work with tuning you out? Take a look at your communication style and see how much time you spend talking rather than listening. Follow Kevin’s four-step plan, or hire an executive coach for assistance. Joel can provide some valuable suggestions. Why not email him today?