When I coach senior organization leaders, I often find that they do a lot more talking than listening. It’s not all their fault. If they’re in the power position, it’s unlikely that someone will point out their loquaciousness or push their way into the conversation. It’s also unlikely that that anyone will correct an interruption imbalance, which is when the person in the power position doesn’t realize how frequently he or she interrupts others and how rarely he or she is interrupted.
What are the results? In my experience, they are: (1) blindspot leadership – the leader erroneously assumes that he/she has effectively communicated the why, the what, and the how and has the necessary buy-in; (2) disengagement – subordinates who otherwise would have much to contribute feel disempowered; and (3) lost opportunity – the best ideas never get developed.
For leaders open to the idea of communication imbalance, the tool I coach is what I call the Period-Pause-Question Ratio. I say to the leader, “What’s the ratio between your sentences that end in periods versus sentences that end in question-marks?” I also ask, “How often do you pause after uttering two or more sentences that end in periods?”
The goal is to create self-awareness, which can lead to self-discipline. The leader can catch himself or herself in mid-word flow. “Oops! I just expressed three sentences that end in periods. That means I’ve got to ask a question or pause to give others the opportunity to speak.”
The Period-Pause-Question Ratio is a simple yet highly effective tool for any loquacious leader willing to adopt it. If you are coaching such a person, I encourage you to share this blog post and have a conversation about it. In addition, I suggest you as coach also become self-aware of your own Period-Pause-Question Ratio.