End with Engagement
Leave them with a feeling of connection
There are so many ways we can better engage with the world around us but one great place to start is with the people we already interact with on a regular basis. If you have a job or volunteer somewhere that either has formal meetings or provides opportunities to speak 1-on-1 with others regularly, I’d start there.
Starting from scratch is often more difficult than building on an existing foundation, so for today’s skill practice, I’m going to give you something to do with people you already know. If you simply “work” with them, then this tactic can go a long way towards helping you truly engage with them. If you already feel like you truly engage with them at the level I defined in this week’s Monday Masterclass, then this tactic will help you take it up a notch!
Why it matters:
As I’ve explained before, Relaxed Leaders need to focus on making progress for everybody – not just themselves or for a select “inner circle” – and that means we need to be able to define “progress” in a way that’s meaningful for a broader base of folks. And in order to do that we need to understand them, which requires engagement with them at a much deeper level. Only then can we come close to understanding potential solutions from their perspective.
If we don’t ENGAGE effectively, then we run the risk of taking action that fails miserably! I’m sure you’ve seen it before: The brilliant executive spends a month with consultants behind closed doors, then comes bursting forth with the “grand plan” to solve all your problems, improve all your processes, and cause productivity to go through the roof! Fast-forward six months and the executive has moved on, the process documentation sits on a shelf collecting dust, and everyone is back to doing it the way they did it before.
There are a dozens ways (or more) to fail in that scenario... but the one way to help prevent it in the first place is by truly engaging with peers, direct reports, and bosses. Success is not created in a vacuum!
How to practice:
At the end of any 1-on-1 meeting – or in a meeting that focuses on a single topic and has a small number of people – do the following:
Step 1: Ask this compound question: Did I answer all of your questions and did you get what you needed from this meeting?
Step 2: SHUT UP and LISTEN to their reply!
Step 3: Ask clarifying questions (if needed) and paraphrase what they’re telling you to ensure you understand them clearly.
Step 4: Respond appropriately and determine next steps.
Simple, right? And once you’ve done it a few times, it’s also very easy. (And it’s hard to find something that’s simple AND easy!)
But don’t be fooled by how simple and easy this tactic is to execute. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with someone and was very happy with how productive the discussion had been, but I used this tactic anyway... and learned more in the last 5 minutes than I had in the first 25.
What to watch out for:
The more comfortable you become in a leadership position, the easier it is for you to unintentionally dominate and steer the conversation. Throw in a little charisma, and people will just sort of follow you through whatever topic they believe you want to discuss. When this happens, it feels like things are going great! And they are going great... from YOUR perspective. That’s when it’s even more important for a Relaxed Leader to flip the script and try to draw the other person out more.
And please, please, please pay attention to Step 2. I mean it when I say you absolutely have to “SHUT UP and LISTEN!” Leaders want to lead and listening feels like following. Get over it. You don’t know everything but collectively you know a helluva lot more.
One final thing to consider is that most leaders listen in order to respond. Don’t do that. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next. Relaxed Leaders listen in order to understand. It’s the only way this tactic will work.
The bottom line:
Trying to fully engage with people all the time is definitely a stretch goal because it’s so damn hard to do. But if you can at least remember to end with engagement, you’ll experience the benefits of going deeper, you’ll get to practice your listening skills, and you’ll leave the other person with a feeling of connection because you took the time to really understand them.
Not bad for a tactic that’s so simple and easy to use!