You and your team are communicating constantly, but how intentional is your process?
If the answer is not very, you and members of your team may struggle to be heard or to align on your projects and how they’re evolving. In turn, these disconnects lead to stress, inefficiency, and missed opportunities.
Doing your best work—both as a leader and as a team overall—requires a culture of intentional communication. While building one takes patience, deliberation, and empathy, these three tips will help get your team’s 2020 off to a productive start.
Create space for yourself—and for others—to elaborate
Suppose team meetings have a tendency to turn into overlapping conversation, where several people are jumping in with ideas without letting anyone finish the thought that they started. How do you even finish a thought? Or, if there’s someone at the table whom you know to be insightful but quiet, how do you get their perspective? By creating space.
One way to do that is to organize your ideas and start with a quick signpost: “I have three quick points I want to share about the tweak you just mentioned.” This signals that you want to hold the floor for more than your first two sentences.
If there’s someone present who rarely speaks first but whom you suspect has something smart to contribute, you might end with a question that springboards to one of their areas of expertise, thereby opening up space for them. Be careful, though. It’s not a favor to make that person feel like they’re being called upon for daydreaming in algebra class, so employ this tactic judiciously.
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Make a habit of asking open-ended questions
Narrow questions elicit narrow answers. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but it can also risk missing something important. For example: Can you put this project plan together for me??
This yes-or-no question doesn’t build in much leeway for an answer like I’d love to once I get done dealing with this horrible ransomware attack.
By contrast, you can often allow much more room for elaboration by simply tacking on a “To what extent” or “What do you need” the beginning, like so: What do you need to put this project plan together?
There are many variations on this theme—What bandwidth do you have to put this project plan together?—but it’s important to recognize that each has the potential to land differently. Be intentional in considering your options.
Listen: Sometimes silence is okay
Perhaps occasionally you ask a question, and there is a pause, and then you find yourself talking again rather than listening for an answer.
Other times, you may be on the other end of the question—and you need a moment to compose your response. For what can feel like a remarkably long moment, what ensues is silence, and many people are uncomfortable with that.
You needn’t be. Silence is a sign that you don’t need chatter filling every available gap. That is, it demonstrates an interest not just in quantity but quality when it comes to communication. Isn’t that the definition of being intentional?