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One of the courses I am teaching mimics marketing analysts reporting to a Director of Marketing. In our weekly "O3s", I have 2 students who cannot seem to get to their points, which makes meeting run overtime etc.

If you interrupt with a pointed question like "Did you get the database or not?", they stop and go right back to the beginning, as if they cannot answer yes or no.

I have encountered people like this in the past. Is this a component of DiSC or something else? Does anyone have any strategies they have used with people who communicate like this? Thanks very much.

*RNTT

jay2k's picture

I encountered this same situation with one of my directs, except the issue really manifested during team meetings. Essentially the individual went on so much, other employees were not able to contribute.

After one such meeting I asked if I had a minute for some feedback. I explained that when he does not quickly arrive to the point that other people are not able to join into the conversation. This causes him to lose credibility, as other team members see him as a person whom does not respect others opinions. Of course, this was not his intention whatsoever, he was just very passionate about resolving a problem. From then on after meetings he would request feedback and during our O3's, I would give him instant feedback when we were off course.

After awhile he learned to get to the point a bit faster and I started seeing his team members interact more during meetings.

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"][...]I have 2 students who cannot seem to get to their points, which makes meeting run overtime etc. [...]
Is this a component of DiSC or something else? Does anyone have any strategies they have used with people who communicate like this? Thanks very much.
*RNTT[/quote]

*RNTT

Yes, knowing about DiSC is helpful here. A High 'D' personality tends towards BLUF. High 'C' tendencies include going into detail and providing background.

MT provides a DiSC cheat sheet: http://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/BeEffectiveWithDISC.pdf

refbruce's picture

Two strategies. Model the behavior and provide feedback. Feedback is generally more effective, but I've also found it helpful to show people what I want.

Feedback first: a) One of the most effective forms of communication is to get to your point first, and then provide supporting detail as needed. When you don't do this during our O3 discussion, you take much more time than needed to cover material, I have a hard time following where you're going, and our meeting is much less effective than it could be. What can you do differently?

b) Thank you. When you do what you just did -- give me the bottom line up front, and then read my reaction to understand how much detail to provide to support your point, you show that you're focusing on communicating and I feel like you are really trying to make the most effective use of our time together. Thanks, and please keep up the good work.

On the modeling behavior, I've asked my directs to a) make sure that any action I need to take is clearly called out in an e-mail for example. And, where an e-mail needs a lot of detail, my first paragraph has "summary:" in bold, with 1-3 sentences, highlighting the important points, followed by action items that individuals need to take. I've gotten feedback from my boss that he finds this useful and from directs that they better understood what I was asking for from them.

With one particular individual, who has expressed a desire to improve in this area, I've worked out a subtle hand signal to indicate the individual is rambling. We've used that in both O3 and more public situations.

rwwh's picture

Can I give you some feedback?
[list]
[*]When you explain your process in detail, our meeting runs over time, and we do not get to other subjects. What can you do differently?
[*]When you tell me the details before telling me the conclusion, it is much more difficult to follow the story because I do not know where you are going. What can you do differently?
[/list:u]
Also: in coaching, consider the book "The Pyramid Principle" by Barbara Minto. The first example she gives about a personal assistant asking her boss whether it is ok to reschedule the meeting should already get your people thinking....

US41's picture

... when I ask you a yes/no question, and you do not answer yes or no as the first word you speak, I get the impression you are trying to not answer my question and it makes me want to go to someone else for the answers.

I have had to have this conversation with several of my reports in the past. My high-D's answer yes/no questions with yes/no, and then interrogation is sometimes required to get to the details. My high C's like to answer with, "Well, it's complicated..." or "Here's what I did... " or "To fully understand the answer, we have to go back to the beginning..."

The mismatch, of course, is that details people usually do not appreciate that a non-details person doesn't want to understand, doesn't care how complicated it was, and doesn't really care what was done. All they want is the one-word answer followed by explanation if they ask for it - and then brief - not from the beginning.

Or is the mismatch because the non-details people do not realize that by attempting to boil down a complicated situation to a single-word answer that the reason for the response will not be understood and a foolish follow-on decision made in haste may result?

Whichever....

1. Hold up your hand palm toward them to say "Stop". If you are on the phone, you may have to call their name multiple times and interrupt them.

2. Do not give the feedback during the meeting. Simply ask, "Yes or no? That's all I want to hear during the meeting. We'll do details off-line."

3. After you have your answer, call them or visit them privately and give the feedback.

Be prepared to be told why you cannot have your one-word answer of yes/no, and that the explanations will continue (with the subtext of "you incompetent, unintelligent, unthoughtful, impatient moron!")

Have your next feedback loaded up ready to go... "When you say you will not adapt your behavior to my wishes, I get the impression that you think I'm not your boss and that you don't have to do what I ask. What will you do differently than that?"

I won't go any further down this road because 99 out of 100 times, this will get the job done with 2 to 3 applications of this same feedback.

HMac's picture

[quote="asteriskrntt1"]Does anyone have any strategies they have used with people who communicate like this?[/quote]

Hey asterisk -
You've gotten a lot of good suggestions for treating this as an opportunity for [i]feedback[/i]. I'll supplement those with the suggestion that this is something you can work on with [i]coaching[/i] - as they may not have the communications skills you're looking for.

In my experience, trying to help people communicate better [u]after the fact [/u]can be touchy, because they naturally tend to get a little defensive. So when I've spotted this problem coming up with frequency, I pull 'em in in advance of the next meeting, and help them prepare what they're [i]going to cover[/i], rather than talking to them after the fact about what they did.

It just takes a few minutes of asking questions like: "What is it you're trying to say? What's your major point? Why are you holding back on that until the end?", etc.

Here's my theory: a lot of people treat their presentations like they're some kind of drama, where they want to "build up" to the big reveal at the end. And most people simply aren't good enough communicators to hold the audience's attention until the big reveal. Thus the need for BLUF.

Hope this helps,

-Hugh

eatonng5's picture

Wish I'd known about DISC 2 years ago. A former direct - now no longer working with me - used to drive me crazy in team meetings. Any update took so long I never heard the eventual answer, and I'd get regular complaints from frustrated team members who didn't want to hear a minute by minute account of last week.

Anyway. That's over now.

I wanted to let you know that when I tried rotating the chair role so that all team members took responsibility on a regular basis it did not work. My theory was Ms Detail would learn in the chair that her behaviours were throwing the agenda of course and making meetings overrun. I expected her to take responsibility for her behaviours and change. I was wrong.

What I've learnt - from my frustration and, now, from listening to the podcasts - is to stop being clever and start being a manager. Next person that does this I'll be providing feedback, coaching, and if the person really can't do what I'm asking I'll be managing them out the door.

eatonng5's picture

Oh - and ps - the chair role now stays with me. I was trying to be [i]inclusive [/i]as a new manager scared of trying to look like the boss - I'm going through an [i]effective [/i]phase and it seems to be working. Team tell me they like it better and I don't have to sit on my hands and tape up my mouth to resist retaking control.

No. I haven't taken my disc profile. I'm guessing quite a bit of D in there...

asteriskrntt1's picture

Wow... great advice from everyone.... nice to know this is one of the recognized DISC behaviours and there is an "easy" solution.

Much appreciated everyone.

*RNTT

Nik's picture

I always hate interrupting people, but I do so aggressively in large meetings, especially ones with people (executives, say) who don't care for details. One DBA I worked with was unable to answer concisely, and I would have to interrupt once or twice an explanation just to get an "It's broken and will be fixed tomorrow" answer.

I finally stopped inviting him to meetings with executives, and just got his feedback before and after the meetings. He wasn't a direct, so my feedback and coaching options were very limited.

WillDuke's picture

I have addressed this with a direct recently. In our O3 I introduced BLUF. I explained why it's helpful.

Then, whenever he came to talk to me I expected BLUF. If I didn't get it, I interrupted him and asked for BLUF.

I also explained that I expect a proposed solution any time he comes to me with a question. I'm here to help you, not do your job. So, after he gives me BLUF, I ask him what he thinks.

So far it's working very well. It's a long-term commitment on my part though. People slip back into old habits easily.

jhack's picture

OK, I know I'm totally off topic here:

Welcome back, Will!

John

asteriskrntt1's picture

Hi Will

I thought you had been captured by aliens while cutting your grass with your noise reduction headphones :wink:

Nice to have your input again. It is easy to fall back into old habits, both as the direct and the manager.

I think after absorbing all this, I can going to give another 5 minutes in class to everyone on BLUF. I don't meet with individual team members one on one, so I will have to give some group feedback. We work with what we have.

Thanks again everyone. Much appreciated.

*RNTT