Waiting and Questioning
Effective group leaders know how to gain valuable inputs from those who are less verbal or too shy to speak in groups. These quieter folks have ideas that are valuable and their participation is critical to success. Getting their thoughts requires sensitivity, patience and more time than many leaders are willing to give. A shame.
As a coach, I sometimes make an error in rushing to dispense my “wisdom” on a work transition issue or dilemma—instead of waiting for more insights from the person I’m helping. Networking can be like that too. We desperately want to say the right thing and say it well that we forget that a great question is absolutely the best way to make a powerful impression. A thoughtful question is poignant—it demonstrates your authentic concern for the person. It becomes that all-important building block toward your credibility and eventual exposure to opportunity or referral. For example:
Networkee (person with knowledge, power and contacts you want)
“We’ve just installed a new technology in order to increase production in our packaging department—it’s been 3 months and we’re not pleased with the quarterly report.
“Oh—we’ve had that new technology for 2 years now and have never had any problems—we’re staying the course.”
“That’s disappointing—what kinds of analyses have you been doing? We just completed a study and unfortunately didn’t track operator training and experience adequately. Maybe a meeting where we address our common challenges could be useful.”
Journal Entry July 22, 2015
Mom is clearly not the Mom I want to see today. Her eyes have no sparkle; her smile is weak and she seems to have little interest in life as we know it. She hasn’t had much sight or hearing and has been wheelchair bound for over two years—who can blame her for turning inward? It’s at times like these that you wonder why she is here. I recall my Grandma dying and telling me she didn’t know why she was still here. My stammering reply was something about teaching her family patience and dignity. Doesn’t seem very helpful now.
I just finished a painful 20 minutes with the well-meaning, but inept visiting priest. He asked to give her the Final Anointment. Mom was barely cognizant but peaceful. At the end, he closed with the Lord’s Prayer and Mom perked up—she wanted to pray it with him. And to my dismay, he wouldn’t slow down to pray it at her pace. He raced to the conclusion with Mom’s words trailing behind—and her furled brow painfully visible. He left with a cursory blessing and good bye. I’ll never forgive myself for not interrupting him and asking him to begin the prayer again and allowing Mom to say it with him.
Write down situations you’ve been in where you wished you could have been more patient or listened more carefully.
What caused you to speak more than was helpful, interrupt someone, or push the conversation at a faster pace?
Construct a conversation which may occur when you are networking and note how you might be more sensitive to the person you’re with—and how you might better learn about his/her situation.
Write down questions you will ask. Ensure they are specific and based in research about your networkees, their organization and/or work.