Passion, enthusiasm and excitement are all good things, but when they cause us to talk more and listen less, that’s a problem.
Take for example, my experience with my sons. One is 20 and the other is 17. When they were younger, I sometimes smothered them with commentary intended to provide them with proper guidance. Looking back, it seemed at times, my talk, talk, talk translated into blah, blah, blah for them.
That is to say, I occasionally focused too much time on lessons to be learned rather than fun to be had. Don’t get me wrong, we did have and continue to have lots of fun together. But back then, my boys and my wife had to kindly help me understand that there was too much teaching going on. I needed to throttle back a bit. Finding that balance is a challenge that all caring and responsible parents face.
The same is true with employee development. Hard to believe, I know, but there are business leaders who smother their employee team with words. Like a parent, these business leaders have great passion, enthusiasm and excitement for their business and their employee team. But because they talk, talk, talk, their employee team only hears blah, blah, blah.
So how do business leaders transfer their passion and knowledge for their business to their employee team? The answer is not to talk more. If you haven’t gotten your message across by saying it once, surely saying it four times won’t help. In fact, it will just make people tune you out. The answer may be to question more and listen.
Sometimes less is more
When business leaders talk too much and don’t listen enough, employee engagement and enthusiasm drops – an ironic result given the business leader’s intent. But, it’s true. So, if you’re a talker, how do you re-engage your employee team?
One way is by asking intelligent questions. As a business leader, it’s your job to become the Chief Questioning Officer. Instead of teaching by preaching, ask questions that lead your team to the right conclusions – questions that draw out and leverage the knowledge of the collective team. These are the questions that lead the team toward a greater understanding of the business, the marketplace, and of the things that drive performance, etc.
Assuming you’ve done a good job of hiring smart and capable people, now you need to develop and leverage that knowledge base. Your goal is to empower your employees so that they rely on themselves and each other rather than you. Only through their growth and independent thinking will your department and/or company grow.
What does this mean?
This approach requires that you team-teach, and cross-pollinate. You have to resist the temptation to provide the answer every time, and be the go-to person every time. Instead, be the team promoter. Facilitate and encourage intelligent decision making, intensify creativity and innovation, improve meaningful collaboration. Cultivate the collective intellect within your team. Be a team builder.
To fully develop the value within your team, you will sometimes have to do things that are counter-intuitive. There will be times when you, as the business leader, could solve the problem quickly, provide the answer now, but instead you should invest in longer-term results (growth and development) by allowing the team to engage in knowledge acquisition and transfer. Ask the right questions and let the team develop the answer based on their collective wisdom, research and experience.
Remember, people learn best when they are engaged in the process. They don’t learn as well listening to someone else lecture. Give your team the freedom to sink their teeth into a problem and solve it utilizing their own resources. Even if they make a mistake, it will be a learning experience, and the lessons learned are your investment into the future growth and sustainability of your department and company.