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July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

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April 3, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

The #1 Leadership Communication Mistake

I have come to the conclusion that there is one pretty universal communication mistake that is the most damaging and causes the most mischief for leaders.

Are you ready?  The mistake is:  not preparing well.  Yes, I know this is not very sexy, but it is incredibly ubiquitos.  People just don’t think about preparing in advance for a crucial conversation, and they typically don’t invest nearly enough time in preparing for a high-stakes presentation or Q & A session.

Think about it this way:  there are probably 5%, maybe 10% at the most, of your communications that are truly extremely important.  Situations where careers, or very large amounts of money are at stake.  My most frequent and important advice is, invest the time to prepare properly for these moments.  The more important the communication, the more time you should invest preparing for it.  More specifically:

  1. For a 1-1 meeting, decide what you will say in advance; and role play the conversation with a skilled communicator whom you trust.  Do the role play as if you were having the actual conversation–don’t just talk about what you plan to say.  Do it fully in role.  Then have them give you feedback, and role play it again.  Practice until you’ve got it down.  It will make for a better outcome, and will also greatly enhance your confidence level going into the conversation, because you have already done it!
  2. For an important Q & A session, write down the questions that you are mostly likely to be asked, and also the questions you most fear.  Then map out your answers, and practice them out loud, again with someone who can give you feedback.  Practice the same question and answer several times, until you really nail it, then move to the next question.  When you have them all, then practice answering a series of questions.
  3. For a presentation, deliver the whole presentation several times, also out loud.  Practicing it in your head is not the same as practicing it aloud, because you are not rehearsing the actual behavior you are preparing for.  And again, if possible, have someone in the room who can give you candid feedback.

About the author:

Eric Nitzberg, is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Want to read more from Eric?  Visit his blog.

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