Taking Up Space


Do you know someone who takes up too much space in their conversations?

They believe they know all the answers and others should listen as they do all of the talking. They fill the conversational space with their own ideas and perspectives, leaving little room for anyone else. It can begin to feel claustrophobic.

The savviest managers know that the less they talk, the more successful they can be. They know that employee support and buy-in is earned with more listening than talking. The best managers ask questions and believe that employees have good ideas to offer.

The third critical mind-set of a painless performance conversation is to use your curiosity to help employees solve their own challenges.

Using your curiosity to help employees to solve their own challenges can be difficult. Let’s face it. You probably took on the role of manager because you are a master problem-solver. You were likely promoted because you are technically competent. It makes sense that you should be able to tell others how to do the job. Here’s the problem: few people want to be told what to do. Most employees want to be involved and have an influence. When you take up too much space, you leave little room for involvement.

Some warning signs that you are taking up too much space in a conversation may include sentences that begin with:

“You need to . . .”
“You should . . .”
“You’d be better off/more successful/happier if you would . . .”
“Why don’t you . . .”

The next time you hear yourself beginning a sentence with one of these directive clauses, stop and ask a question instead. Although it may seem quicker and easier to tell employees what to do, you won’t gain their commitment. Why would an employee want to do what you’re telling them to do if they feel like they are being pushed into a corner? Create space in your conversations by asking questions and employees are likely to fill the space with great ideas.

For more articles on the four mind-sets, read our other blog posts: Conversations Drive Performance, Lead with Behavior, and  Eliminate Judgment.


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