When leaders talk to their people, they face some difficult challenges. Whilst it’s very important to get the balance between giving information and building the relationship, the very nature of their relationship can get in the way.
Leaders are by definition, some way up the hierarchy, so there is a natural tendency for employees to bow in deference when the leader is talking. Although this might not go quite so far as intimidation, it will always be quite close.
Similarly, leaders having something to say is quite compelling, because they might have useful information to impart as well as give clues about what they think of the person listening to them.
So in leadership, there is an inherent role to ensure that the balance of any conversation ensures that individuals feel they have a close relationship with the leader – and in most circumstances, only the leader has the status to make this happen.
Whilst in many conversations the ‘two ears, one mouth’ rule works effectively (see this blog post for more), a simpler one might be of value when leaders engage with their people as individuals.
By simply ensuring that each side speaks for an equal amount of time, leaders can ensure that their people really feel heard, especially when they show they truly are interested by listening actively.
Being self-aware enough to appreciate when you have said your piece in a conversation and then giving the other side space for their say, is a challenge many leaders fail to achieve.
The most successful leaders balance the conversation as they recognise the value in giving space to others too.