Public Speaking for Leaders: Impromptu Team Meetings
Today’s post discusses a type of public speaking often discounted but highly influential in your overall leadership success.
Leaders – supervisors, superintendents, managers, team leaders and so on – are frequently required to speak to others. In fact, the ability to speak with fluency in a wide variety of situations is crucial to any leader’s career.
Public speaking, or speaking in front of others, does not just mean standing with a microphone in front of a crowd of thousands.
Some of the most critical speaking situations in your career (or your life) will happen in small rooms, to a small group of people, or even one on one.
There’s A Knock on the Door
When a team member pops their head around your door and asks to speak to you, they are quickly able to assess your level of interest and commitment. You’re busy, but you invite them inside your office, perhaps because you make a big deal out of having an ‘open-door policy’. They aren’t oblivious; they can see you’re in the middle of something, and your focus and attention are elsewhere. Do you think that they will be satisfied with the outcome of your discussion, regardless of what you say?
If this is the kind of attention you offer your team member, your body language gives you away. Your body remains turned towards your computer. You hold your phone in one hand and the other hand hovers over the screen, waiting to continue typing. Your eyes constantly return to the pile of documents on your desk. You hold your pen ready and occasionally just can’t help jotting something down. You check your watch or phone screen constantly. You nod impatiently, trying to make your interrupter – note the term – get to the point by the power of your mind alone.
We are all guilty of this. What good is an open-door policy when you view anyone who walks through it as an interrupter?
When you are in this headspace, you are in no position to listen well or to respond in a way that will lead to true satisfaction. If you are not fully present in a conversation, you will give yourself away. Do you enjoy the feeling that you are not being listened to? Do you enjoy being disrespected? What does it do for your self-esteem? How much more might your subordinates feel this, at your hands?
Result: Poor Morale
Your employee will sense that you are patting them on the head to get rid of them, or saying yes or no without thinking through the situation, which means they can’t trust you not to change your mind. Thus, a wasted conversation for them, plus a reinforcement of the notion that you have no time for or interest in their ideas or problems.
Authenticity, full attention and consideration of your team member’s time is vital. You need to ensure that you are able to give them your full attention.
Do This Instead
If you really can’t spare the time now, then reschedule for a time that suits you both and doesn’t delay their concern too long.
NEVER answer phone calls in face to face meetings. But what if it’s your boss? But it will just take a second. No. NEVER. There is never an excuse for prioritizing a voice over a face. If it’s a true emergency and you’re waiting for a call, tell your visitor so upfront. But make sure it really is something they can accept as being worth the interruption.
If you’re flat out and want to deal with this new information there and then because you know you’ll never get to it otherwise, then some time management skill updating might not go astray.
Regardless, putting into place some personal, consistent rules about face to face meetings, including turning away from your computer, putting your phone on silent and not answering it, and moving away from any distracting papers, helps your team to trust that you are truly present and interested in their situation. Everything else can wait a few minutes.
Try Words Like These
‘Sure, I’d like to grab this opportunity with you now. Yes, I am busy. But I’m going to stop that and I’m going to turn my chair around. Come and sit over here. Let’s go for a coffee. My focus is on you. You’ve got something to say to me, I want to hear. My other work will still be there. I will go back to it. I’ll put my phone on silent. I’m interested in what you have to say.’
Build on the Rapport
I’ll have an article for you soon on how to build your team’s rapport and strength from this small but significant start. Remember this simple rule: anytime your team members want to speak with you, view them as information providers, not interruptions. Treat their time and their words with respect and you will notice a difference in their performance and attitude. Practice focused attention and active listening, rather than letting your thoughts wander. This is a great opportunity for you to improve your impromptu speaking skills and to put your listening skills to work in order to analyse the information you hear.