Managers should try simply shutting up

March 15, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

Attending a meeting can be agonizing enough, but having to listen to people whose opinions or insights are not as worthwhile as your own, or people who take a long time to get their points across, can add to the pain.

Despite the temptation to cut and run, literally or just mentally, or to talk over someone else, there are benefits that can come from attending and from listening to what others have to say.

In his book “Serve To Be Great,” Matt Tenney describes three ways for communicating during a meeting, and they do not involve dominating or talking over everybody. They are:

* Speak last. Effective leaders know how necessary it is to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are and to find ways to get them sharing ideas as frequently as possible.

* Speak less than 10 percent of the time. When leaders speak, it should be 10 percent of the time, at most, and primarily to ask questions. The only way to discover solutions that are potentially better than the ones already on offer is to get others talking as much as possible.

* Don’t offer opinions. The moment leaders start offering opinions about the topic in general, or, worse, an idea someone has shared, they cause people to worry about sharing ideas and decrease the likelihood of getting truly innovative solutions.