Don’t just sit there; say something!
Really, say anything! I live to hear the sound of your voice. Whether you are disclaiming, or complaining, or pontificating endlessly on a subject you obviously know nothing about, you can’t talk long enough for me.
Of course, not everyone is me.
Executive coach Anne Sugar is definitely not me, especially when it comes to you. A highly respected CEO-whisperer, Sugar suggests in her recent Forbes article, “How to Know If You Talk Too Much in Meetings (And What To Do About It)” that the way to accomplish more may be to talk less.
Recognizing that, as a leader, “you’ve probably been trained to speak up and speak often in meetings,” Coach Sugar wants you to know that “leaders who talk too much can derail the conversation — and lose credibility in the process.”
Considering the infinitesimal amount of credibility you currently possess, this is an important observation. But how are you to know how many of your brilliant words are sufficient and how many will make everyone think you are a bore and a clown? The following four tips should help diagnose and, perhaps, even cure your executive logorrhea.
No. 1: Ask for Feedback
“Ask a trusted colleague to watch you in a meeting and share their input.”
If you have no trusted colleagues — say you work with a bunch of snakes out to destroy your career — you may choose to ask someone who really doesn’t care whether you succeed or fail, like your manager.
In either case, you are encouraged to be specific, as in, “on a scale of 1-5, how would you rate if I am talking too much?” This seems a little open-ended to me. I suggest a scale of 4-5, or, maybe, just 5-5.5. You know you’re wonderful. The only question is just how wonderful you really are.
If there’s no one you can ask, and “you’re feeling really brave,” it is suggested that you record yourself and watch the playback. On the one hand, “this can be painful.” On the other hand, you could create a YouTube channel full of your best rants and make everyone in the company watch it between meetings. An additional advantage to this strategy is that it could turn out to be a major moneymaker. Advertisers would flock to your channel, I’m sure, especially companies that sell pills for headache relief.
No. 2: Watch Body Language
You don’t have to be in the office to judge the attention level of meeting participants. Next time you are in a virtual meeting with employees working from home, turn down the volume and observe “how do other participants react when you speak?”
Be especially aware if one of the participants puts their head in their oven, or knots bedsheets to tie a noose, which they then put around their neck and throw over a chandelier. Unless you immediately stop talking, you will probably have to go through all the trouble of making a new hire.
No. 3: Take A Breath
“Feel like you might be rambling?” asks Sugar. “Take a breath. Or, pause and take a sip of water.”
Or, if you want my advice, take a nap.
The key is to observe the meeting’s progress when you’re not talking. If you wake up to find the meeting still going strong, your input is clearly not needed, which means it is time to reassert your authority with a one- or three-hour jeremiad.
Remember — if you’re not talking, it’s not a meeting; it’s just a gathering of aimless losers waiting for you to tell them what to do.
No. 4: Watch an Expert Communicator
Next time you’re in a meeting with someone recognized as an expert communicator, “do more watching than talking.” This is really unfair to the other participants who will have to do without your brilliance for as much as 15 minutes, but you could gain insights if you “keep a log of how many times they speak, and note how they speak.”
“You don’t need to shoehorn yourself into their leadership style,” Sugar says, but “you can test their techniques and make them work for you.”
Alternately, you can use the time when someone else is talking to have a coughing fit, or put your finger down your throat to imitate vomiting, or just grab your chest and pass out, face first, into a tray of jelly donuts.
This will effectively bring attention back to you and, notice, you haven’t said a word.