February – Shut Up

I was struck this month by two interesting articles. The first was, Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely, January-February Harvard Business Review. The second was, 9 Strategies To Become A Fantastic Listener, John Stoker, an Internet Blog.

In my consulting practice, I often have the opportunity to observe typical staff meetings. These generally last for 60 minutes and the director pontificates for 55 minutes. Then for the last 5 minutes asks for creative input from those in attendance. At this point in time everyone is just thinking how they can get the h&*% out of there. Keep reading and you will get some ideas to help you:

In your meetings try:

  1. Let others lead and present various items.
  2. Don’t speak first; speak last or not at all.
  3. Don’t spend time on all the updates that could readily be handled by email.

A few highlights from, Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely:

  1. Don’t assume that because you have an open door policy that it actually works. Did you ever hear a manager say, “I have a closed door policy?”
  2. People don’t speak up for fear of consequences or a sense of futility. In our consulting practice, half of our recommendations come directly from employees. If we ask why they haven’t said or acted on it before, it is always because no one listens.
  3. Ask for feedback frequently, so it is not intimidating, make it a regular casual affair.
  4. If someone comes into your office, get out of your chair, come around the desk, and sit on a chair that has the same status as the person who wants to talk to you. I love this one and it is so easy to do.
  5. Management by walking around works because employees are on their turf, not yours.
  6. Follow up with suggestions.

A few highlights from the 9 Strategies To Become A Fantastic Listener:

  1. Suspend your thinking; don’t assume anything
  2. Eliminate distractions (a big one!)
  3. Have good body language
  4. Listen more than you speak

I am reminded of a concept that was part of a course I once taught on motivation. A person’s statements or actions may seem totally unreasonable or off the wall to you but has meaning for the person. Your job is to understand the meaning and what leads them in their direction.

In summary – shut up – at least more often!

the Management Doctor