Have you ever had this experience?
Someone says or does something and you hear your parents voice in your head making a comment that they may have said 10 years, 30 years, or 50 years ago? In an instant, you become your parents. I don’t mean carrying a jacket in 90-degree heat in the event you get cold; tying a chain to your glasses so that you don’t lose them; or wearing an orange polyester pantsuit (which is cool…again)! I recently had an experience where I became my mother. I heard the comment in my head that used to make me roll my eyes and think “that is just something old people say”.
My mom and dad used to tell me that the older they got the less they knew. It was their way of telling me to be humble and realize that I did not have all the answers and to learn something new every single day. My mom used to say, you have two ears and one mouth… that was typically after she told me to put a lid on it. I was an energetic kid and listening was not my #1 skill. At that time, it sounded like a rule or scolding, and I did not understand the value of what she was saying.
As a kid and young adult, I thought I needed to prove I deserved a “seat at the table” and would share my opinions and ideas frequently actually, A LOT! I was fortunate to have great mentors early in my career and they provided coaching as insight and feedback rather than criticism. I respected them and listened to their advice. I did not always know how to apply the wisdom, but I listened.
Back to the story!
An employee reached out regarding a situation they had not previously experienced. They asked for my advice and once I started to answer, interrupted and came up with their own solution that was inconsistent with the processes in the company. I started to explain and again was interrupted and thanked for my input. End of conversation!
When I was younger, I used to do the same thing. I would interrupt and believe I knew the answer without listening or considering another opinion. Was it a sign of maturity? Maybe! Was it a disregard for their opinion? Maybe! Was it trying to prove that I was worthy of the role that I was in? Maybe!
My mentors witnessed and coached me when I exhibited this behavior. They tied the feedback to my craft and pointed out the nuances I was missing in conversation; observing body language, paying attention to word choice, understanding the timing of a pause, etc. As a speaker and HR professional, these skills are critical to connect with an audience or employee while trying to understand what is really being said. This validates another persons point of view, I may not agree but they were heard. Heck, these nuances are critical at every level in any type of career but be aware the use of virtual communication makes listening critical as these nuances are more difficult to detect.
I took the advice of my mentors and replay presentations and interactions to ask these questions.
• What did I learn from the experience?
• When should I have stopped and listened?
• What would I do differently in the future?
While in the conversation, or shall I say the employee’s monologue, I experienced an outcome that is frequent in the “work world”. The employee did not listen and interrupted which created a sense of division.
What is a leader to do? This is a coaching opportunity!
A technique my mentors used provided feedback as observation and insight, tying it to the role and interests of the employee. For example, if an employee is working in a technology position and assumes others understand technology, they may tend to be brief in their descriptions or conversation. When providing coaching, state that the topic can be overwhelming for people that are not as familiar with computers. Interrupting a conversation may make the person feel even less motivated to try or learn.
In a meeting, watch the body language of those around the table when someone doesn’t listen and constantly interrupts. You may see eye-rolling, looking down to “check-out” text messages, or doodling and generally “wishing it was over”. The “interrupter” and their behavior impact teamwork, productivity, and profit!
In a group meeting the group sets ground rules for interaction. The leader states the purpose of the meeting and the methodology to gain the most value, embody teamwork, and achieve alignment. Ground rules might include:
• Give everybody an opportunity to speak;
• Ensure no one monopolizes the meeting;
• Do not dismiss an idea;
• Collaborate on ideas with additional input and creativity, etc.
If the ground rules are in place and not being observed, the leader provides individual feedback after the meeting. Inquire whether the employee understood the ground rules? If the answer is no, clarify for future meetings and encourage the employee to reach out to anyone who might have been offended or derailed as a result of the behavior. If the answer is yes, ask the employee why they disregarded the ground rules? Tell the employee that this was a mutual agreement, and this is not a positive reflection of teamwork or consideration for others.
We have all been on the receiving end of constructive feedback from a boss, peer, or parent. It is hard to hear and difficult to swallow but can be life changing.
For assistance coaching and supporting your team , contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-447-4111.