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“You asked me how I was feeling and what’s bothering me … quit arguing. I’m just trying to answer your question.”

Have you ever been on that side of a conversation? Or maybe you were so busy giving solutions that you never stopped to clarify or listen to what was being said and how it was being said?

I had the opportunity to have coffee with a new leader and one of her reports. She shared that one of her team members was clearly struggling. He looked frustrated, sounded frustrated, and it didn’t take much to know something was bothering him. So, as any leader might do, she asked him out for coffee to listen to what was bothering him.

He shared he was struggling to get appointments, and get respect of his channel partners. He was coming off a bad month, and the biggest quotas, and the companies selling season was on him.

He wasn’t midway through his first issue when his leader jumped in, interrupted, and started trying to give him solutions, to make him see things differently, or try to find where he might be responsible. That’s when he stopped and blurted out: “You asked me how I was feeling and what’s bothering me … quit arguing. I’m just trying to answer your question.”

He wasn’t all wrong. Leaders do this all the time, believing they are helping by jumping in with solutions or that rah rash talk to move someone. When leaders feel leading is about what they say or share, they miss a big opportunity to move someone. That person who is stuck is “on a bench”, and needs an ear to move forward.

To get the opportunity to pull someone off that bench, you need to do a few things:

  1. HEAR what they are saying. Words are only 7% of a face-to-face message, the rest is communicated by look, body language and tone.
  2. EMPATHIZE where it fits. Sometimes someone just wants to be heard, so hear them out before offering any solutions
  3. BE CLEAR on what they want out of the conversation. They might want to just air out some frustrations, or maybe they DO want a plan … take the opportunity to listen
  4. Most importantly, ASK for permission, or find out if they’d like you to share some ideas or best practices. Ask: “How can I help” and, “Thanks for sharing. Do you mind if I share a few ideas that we can work on together?”

A well intended idea of meeting and finding out whats troubling a person can get lost if you talk through the conversation without clarifying the outcomes and listening to people first. No doubt you probably have something good to share, but first let them air out what’s on their mind, ask how you can help, and find out if they’d like to hear some solutions. That goes a long way to building trust, and that’s a key to Off the Bench Leading.

Share your thoughts, stories and ideas for being present in a conversation! Connect with me at my contact page.