A couple of weeks ago, I attended a fund raiser and was seated next to a person I didn’t know. I struck up a conversation, asked a few questions, and learned that the person next to me was a manager in a IT department.
This week, I had lunch with another manager in a high-tech firm.
Here’s what struck me about these conversations:
In both cases, the other person did the bulk of the talking. The first manager didn’t ask any questions; the second manager asked one question. In both cases, it was hard to get a word in edgewise.
Now, these were both social situations, and these two people may be very different at work. Then again, maybe they’re not — a leopard does not generally change his spots.
If these managers do all the talking when the meet with the people on their teams, how do they know what team members are working on? How do they learn where team members are struggling, what their strengths are, and what they want to do with their careers?
It’s a puzzle.
Managers, coaches, and technical leaders do need to talk — to explain company and department goals, communicate important information and tie tasks to strategy. When they aren’t doing that, managers need to ask questions and listen.
The proportion should be somewhere around 30% talk and 70% listen.
Tim Bacon posted a great set of questions for managers/coaches here.