Give employees time to follow your ideas

October 15, 2014

Q: I have a new leadership team of very smart but silent managers. I want dialogue and debate but all I get is blank stares.  So to keep the meetings moving efficiently I end up supplying all the answers. How do I get them to speak up?

A: Sounds like the rate at which you process data is quite different than your team.  Your members may need more time than you are allowing- to take in and absorb the information – to feel confident with their responses.

You already know your message.  Members don’t.  They need ramp up time to get on the same page with you. Before launching into your topic provide a high level overview outlining what you want them to listen for, and explain how the information is relevant to them.  Better still send a summary ahead of time so they feel equipped to share intelligently in the meeting.

Are you overwhelming the listener with dense details, extraneous rambling, or a bombardment of rapid fire ideas- all of which are challenging to sort through?  It is hard to contribute when they are confused.  Keep your message succinct and on point.

Structure the conversation in a logical manner, slow your pace so they can digest your message and connect the dots as you speak.  Pause frequently inviting comments, opinions and ideas into the white space by asking short open ended questions. Remain genuinely open, curious and appreciative of their responses. Then exercise patience rather than pressure as they formulate their answers.

Recognize you are the highest ranking in the room. Sharing your viewpoint too soon or too often can kill discussion. Team members commonly feel the stakes are too high to risk challenging or debating after hearing where the leader stands.

Reprinted from The Province, September 28, 2014. 

Introverts need time and trust to open up

June 18, 2012

Q: I have inherited two executives who are challenging me.

The rest of the team exchanges ideas and dialogues passionately while they sit withdrawn and silent.

When asked to contribute, their ideas are well formulated and sound. But they are painfully slow at articulating so I often pass over them. How can I get them to keep up with the rest of us so we can include their input?

A: Recognize these leaders are likely introverts. Introverts reflect, think and process information internally before responding to a situation. They need to be asked for their opinions as they rarely volunteer their depth of knowledge. Introverts prefer to listen. They think before they act and once decided, aren’t easily swayed.

These executives may not appear as team players. Introverts are generally private, requiring time and trust to open up.

Extroverts process their thoughts by saying them aloud.

Comfortable in groups, they take up a lot of space and their energy drains introverts.

Communicating in larger groups is more challenging for introverts. They far prefer deep discussions one on one.

Introverts have a greater ability to focus their attention narrowly for longer periods than extroverts.

Get the best from these executives by giving them time to prepare their thoughts. Tell them you’ll be asking them for their viewpoints shortly. Draw them out by asking them specific questions.

Pause and leave space for them to participate. Give them the time they need to talk.

Understand it takes extraordinary effort for introverts to get their momentum.

Don’t interrupt. Keep meetings short and regular rather than infrequent and protracted so it is less taxing. Give them the option to communicate their views in writing after the meeting. Respecting the introverts’ style will bring out their best providing your team with more range and depth.

Originally printed in The Province, June 17, 2012.