Lately, I’ve noticed more cars with after-market upgrades that make them significantly noisier, but little else. A similar thing happens at work when extroverts drown out introverts in meetings. In Texas, all hat and no cattle describes things and people that generate significant noise without creating much value in the end.
Today’s goal is to find ways to create value with less noise.
In Myers-Briggs language, I am an ENFJ and high I/high D in DiSC. (Let’s keep that between us). With these profiles, my natural tendency is to speak. And that includes talking when I should be listening, an area of perpetual personal development. I am not alone in this category.
There are things we can do to make less noise and free the team to unleash their talents and create value:
Start every meeting by listening first and mainly. If you are the meeting owner and no facilitator is available, kick off the gathering and get other people talking while you listen. If you are one of five in the room, and the meeting is an hour, try to keep your talking time under 12 minutes for the entirety. If people are used to hearing you half the time, there will be undeniable moments of silence and bewilderment as they wait for you to speak. Let it sit there without comment, gesturing to others to keep talking. The team will proceed with trepidation, waiting for the interruption. That’s part of the learning curve.
Write self-coaching notes. Place them in front of you and refer to them as often as you need during the meeting. Add words as necessary to keep your promise to speak less and listen more. If you interrupt, apologize and start again. You make up the rules, so have fun with it and keep practicing.
Show up prepared. Read the meeting brief, research the gaps in your understanding, listen intently to others in the meeting, form your thoughts, and respectfully provide relevant input. If you have other ideas that aren’t related to the topic but necessary to share with one or more people, write them on a sheet labeled “parking lot” and cover it later.
Prepare to show up. Presenting a different version of meeting behavior requires preparation before you arrive at the meeting. Showing up as a curious listener rather than a confident talker are miles apart. Practice listening to family members at home with your “don’t interrupt” note card in front of you. You may be surprised at the impact it has on them and you. And it is a (relatively) safe place to practice.
Don’t interrupt. Use the reminder notecard as a stop sign. You may feel as if your soul is going to burst out of your body and that everyone else will notice your shaking limbs as you hold back your thoughts, but the few that notice and the others who know your meeting style will appreciate the struggle and respect the effort. Most of all, they will welcome getting their views out in the open without interruption.
Actively edit your thinking. You came to the meeting prepared with your thoughts. As you are listening, you will hear new points and distinctions from others. Use these moments to refine your ideas and live edit during the meeting. The result is a more nuanced contribution that reflects fresh information and demonstrates respect to those in the room.
Takeaway: Talented people with diverse communication and leadership styles surround you. Adjust your meeting behavior to make it safe and possible for everyone to share their views. This is a high-leverage way to improve discussion and decision making in a team while making less noise yourself.