Fast delivery can mean fast failure

Posted By on October 9, 2012

In our busy, fast-paced world we are at risk to accelerate everything – including our communications. Unfortunately, fast delivery can mean fast failure.

A senior level executive recently asked me to review his personal communication process. He wants to improve. Yet, he felt there were communication problems jinxing his desired results. We began by observing his communication in executive team meetings.

I quickly identified his main Speaking Strengths™ are Command and Authenticity. But he was right. His communication style was causing problems. My client never sat down and never paused. He paced the room and spoke the entire time. In order to “get through” the agenda, he rushed his content, rapidly delegated tasks, and did not allow time for questions or deliberation.  The executive team hardly said anything.

After observing this charming man and respected leader, I was curious how effective the team felt his approach to be.

The team confirmed my perceptions.  While they recognized his Authenticity and Command strengths, they felt his speed was a hindrance.  Because he did not provide opportunities for questions, they were unclear about what was expected.  Many assignments were only partially completed, or, took much longer than requested.

Once aware of the problems, the executive took responsibility to slow down. His goal was to use his Command and Authenticity strengths to be a calming presence in the room – rather than a whirlwind. He decided to focus on what it would take for the executives on his team to be very effective with an assignment rather than getting everything assigned.

We provided him one-to-one coaching and on-camera practice. We incorporated the skill of pausing to speak more slowly, suggested asking more questions and eliminating the finger-pointing. He also established a new process and discipline for the meetings and the agenda:

  • Provide the agenda and background material in advance of the meeting. Verify that everyone has read the material before beginning.
  • Create some breathing room in the meeting. For him, this meant making a request and then pausing so what he said had a moment to be digested.
  • When delegating, ask the person to name specifically what they understood he wanted.
  • Include humor at some points in the meeting to lighten the mood.
  • Stop pointing a finger at the person with whom he is speaking.
  • Ask more questions overall to determine whether everyone understands their assignments.

While the new skills initially felt very challenging for this executive, he has been rewarded with countless saved hours, improved effectiveness, and less anguish, both for him and his team! His commitment and efforts to develop a communication style that allows people to take a breath, ask questions and identify the goals won him additional respect from his team. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.

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