Great conversations start with a question. As a regular reader, you probably are tiring of hearing this statement from me.
A friend reminded me yesterday of a lesson she was re-learning with her kids. They were testing her with statements meant to shock her, and while her impulse was to react, her intuition told her to take a deep breath and simply say “Tell me a little bit more about that?” Then keep breathing and listen.
She also reminded me that I taught her that through watching me facilitate a group. I was flattered, and also secretly glad she did not follow me around as a parent. 🙂
The goal is never to mask what you are thinking and be seen as a Teflon person who is never rattled. The real goal (and my intent when I do it as a facilitator) is to delay reaction until more is learned.
Here are two methods I have designed this kind of listening into key conversations I encourage leaders to have:
- Performance conversations: What are 3 things you want to accomplish with this review?
- One-on-ones: What is energizing you right now? What is frustrating you right now? What do you want to make sure we cover today?
It is important for you, as a leader, to remain calm and focus on understanding before reacting. Certainly, there is a case to be made that the words Fire or a gunshot going off demands a quick response. Yet those who are professionals in responding to such events are trained to assess even as they react. Leaders need to learn that – and it begins with having the discipline to ask a couple of questions to lead them past the emotion to the core reasons they are making that statement. Behind a reason is a need, and leading with their needs in mind is what leaders do when they actually care.
Put another way, to care is to listen.
Great conversations start with a question. Questions put us, as leaders, in the position of listening. Listening is good, and remember to breathe.