Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category
In a response to my last post, (https://goo.gl/HW1lzl), Jason Read (@JasonReadPHD) correctly notes, “If only they practiced this ratio…”
It’s easy to blame the leader and then the organization (as creators of ability and culture) for not acting as a “coach” by stopping talking and asking, WAIT (Why Am I Talking). Well, guess what. There are two parties in that exchange and the “other” person (employee, customer, child) should be thinking, WAINT (Why Am I NOT Talking).
There are a number of plausible reasons why the “other” doesn’t ask WAINT more often.
- Both managers AND the employee (or “other,” whomever it is) have “always done it this way,” i.e., it has become the accepted MO for management. I talk, you listen. Then you do it. See ya.
- Some people like being told what to do. They don’t expect to be asked, so they either don’t prepare or want to put in the effort.
- They don’t have the opportunity to talk. Often not enough time is allotted for the real exchange of ideas, which ties back to the first point of the expectation of how the exchange is expected to occur (if “exchange” is even the right word; maybe more of a lecture).
- Some people have self-doubts, and it becomes a self-limiting obstacle to personal contribution. This also has lots of reasons, including past experiences and past contributions not being acknowledged, tried, and/or rewarded. This can go WAY back in a person’s upbringing, and can be difficult to change, but it often is an assumption the person is making about outcomes.
I feel myself drifting into clinical psychology (where I don’t want to be and am not qualified to be), so this behaviorist will return to the REAL reason for this post, and that is to propose that WAINT is fixable, regardless of the histoy. The first requisite of change is to increase awareness, and so we need to make people (all the “others” in the world) to first realize they are not talking and that, at times, that needs to change.
When we are the “other,” we have a responsibility to contribute. And we, as change agents (consultants, HR professionals, trainers, leaders who want change) need to create an environment (culture) that encourages the “others” to get involved and to be supported.
It starts with the awareness creation that the status quo is not working, and both managers and “others” need to change. The organization is losing a major resource in the minds and abilities of its employees when they aren’t heard , supported and recognized.
In a prior blog (https://goo.gl/6w57Fd) I proposed taxonomy of manager/other interactions, four types of discussions that are used in different situations. I propose that it is insufficient for managers to go off to training and learn this approaching to being a better manager and coach. It is equally important to create the awareness of the “others” that these conversations are all important and each type has its time and place. Part of the message is that Activator exchanges need to be happing more often, and this is where 10:1 ratio of listening to talking comes into play.
I also propose that part of this orientation for both managers and the “others” is to create a language that forms expectations about what kind of exchange is about to happen, as in the manager saying, “Lets have a check-in” so that both parties have a vision of what their roles will be. Or the employee might say, “I’m having a problem and we need to have an Activator chat.” When they enter that talk, they should be thinking that the 10:1 ratio will be used, versus maybe a 1:10 ratio when the Director discussion is happening. And, if the expectation is that the employee will have the opportunity to talk for 90% of the conversation, he/she had better be prepared to do just that.
Yes, the manager has the WAIT question to wrestle with. But the “other” has a WAINT to be aware of as well. It won’t do any good for the manager to create air time if, as they say on the radio, there is only dead air.
I first came across the WAIT acronym in a Facebook discussion my daughter “liked” from a blog about parenting. My daughter (and husband) have two daughters, ages 7 and 5, so commiserating with parents with similar demographics can be useful when there is no instruction guide (other than grandparents, hah). WAIT stands for “Why Am I Talking,” and it was an interesting take on how to interact with young children when (like many/most managers) we want to “be in charge,” “be the expert,” and “have the last word.” And, in the process of doing all those things, of course we are not listening, let alone trying to understand.
I was reminded of WAIT recently when reading a LinkedIn posting by Ted Bauer that pointed me to this (http://goo.gl/Wks5x5) by Art Petty, who suggests a 10:1 ratio of listening to talking in order to be a more effective manager. A 10:1 ratio is pretty radical! I have more typically seen an 80/20 ratio in the context of good coaching. But why not aim high!
I’ll tell you why: because it is so antithetical to the mental model most of us have when we think of “coach” or even “parent.” But let’s stop (i.e., stop talking) for a few minutes and think about all the possible benefits of WAIT. A few of these relate to Marshall Goldsmith’s list of negative behaviors in his great book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.
- We never learn anything when we are talking (LBJ and others…)
- It diminishes the felt value of others when they are not heard
- It also diminishes the real, actual value of others when their knowledge is not used. As a GM retiree is famously reported to have said, “For 30 years they paid me for my body. They could have had my mind for free.”
- Our initial need to talk often causes us to state an opinion or make a decision we regret based on insufficient information or analysis. In Jerome Groopman’s book “How Doctor’s Think,” he reports that, on average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. His study of malpractice leads him to conclude, “Sometimes the key to success is uncertainty,” that is, don’t decide too quickly.
- We may be angry or upset. We all know from experience that these are not good times to be talking without “counting to 10.”
- It feeds our need to be “right”, and in our mind we are right and always will be if others don’t tell us we are wrong. We hate being wrong because we have been brought up to be “right” (e.g., get straight A’s). See this great TED talk: https://goo.gl/E6oPKH
- It feeds our need to have the last word, regardless of how little value it adds.
- We actually may not know what we are talking about.
Oh, yeah; and then listen.
WAIT! (your turn)