My Favorite Management Tool.

What’s the best thing to say in a meeting? As little as possible.

Quite a few years ago, as I was wrapping up a Netflix product meeting, Patty McCord, our VP of HR pulled me aside. “You know,” she started, “you’re always talking about how you want to make sure you are getting everyone’s input? Well, tell me. Who did most of the talking in that meeting?.”

I hung my head. What could I say? I had gotten so carried away with my own opinions, I hadn’t left time for anyone else’s. I was so consumed with talking – that I had stopped listening.

And that realization – as they say – has made all the difference.  In fact, it’s turned into my favorite piece of advice for people looking to be better managers, and it’s so simple:

Talk less. Listen more.  

But I mean really listening.  The type of listening where you are focusing on what the other person is saying – rather than plotting the brilliant thing you’ll say as soon as they have finished.  If you do it right, you’ll learn more – and they will feel listened to. A win/win.

You don’t need a chess clock either. In your next meeting, just ask yourself, who’s doing all the talking?

And when I do hear one of my managers running on and on, I’m tempted to remind them that, as Abraham Lincoln said, “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

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