A Butt-Kicking Project to Overcome the Drain of Talkative Leadership
You talk to solve problems, but what if your talking IS the problem?
You talk to help, but what if your talking makes people feel helpless?
I asked a group, “What’s a healthy ratio of listening to talking for wisdom?” The range went from 90:10 to 70:30. (Personally, I was thinking 50:50, which seemed way off base after hearing their responses.)
No one gets up in the morning with the goal of choosing stupid, but stupid seems smart sometimes. That’s why smart people do stupid things.
Self-justification for talkative leadership:
- You need to give direction.
- You talk because you “know” the answer.
- Talking is controlling.
- You think talking is convincing. But what if listening is essential to influence?
- Listening takes too long.
Leaders who monopolize conversations poison their own well.
When you steal people’s voice, you lower their belief in you, themselves, and the mission of your organization.
Teams without a voice languish.
What’s one recurring complaint of teams? “The people upstairs don’t listen.”
The negative impact of talkative leadership:
Blathering leaders make themselves seem important and others insignificant. When team members can’t get a word in edgewise, you tell them your words are more important than theirs.
Don’t expect to motivate people you devalue.
A frustrated team diverts energy from the mission.
It’s frustrating to talk to leaders who don’t listen.
Teams have more available energy when they don’t expend energy on trying to be heard.
At the end of a meeting, ask each person to rate your listening to speaking ratio.
Hand out 3 X 5 cards and ask two questions. (No names.)
- What percentage of the time was I really listening? (Silence is helpful, but doesn’t count.)
- What percentage of the time was I talking?
(The total should add up to 100%.)
How would you lead if you were literally losing your ability to speak?
Bonus: Kevin Hancock, the leader of one of America’s oldest companies, developed spasmodic dysphonia – speaking became difficult. He learned to be a leader who talks less and listens more.
Check out Kevin’s new book, “The Seventh Power.”
Kevin Hancock in his own words. (2:52)
This is always such a difficult balance TO PRACTICE – we like the sound of our own thoughts, getting it right on paper is so much simpler, for me! 🙂 Many of my roles are some variation of sales/marketing, a principal I try to remember is that the answers we need to be successful are locked inside our prospects and customers, they can’t come out if we do all the talking. This has influenced my leadership style as well.
Thanks Ken. I’m glad you mention that this is difficult. Sometimes you should talk more. Other times you should listen less. Sometimes talking is oppressive. Other times, listening frustrates people who need a decision.
The video above is a challenge to many. I love how Kevin said that he discovered that his team mates didn’t need an answer from him. They already knew the answer.
Leaders who complain that people aren’t taking responsibility may be talking too much.