Improving presentation and listening skills will make us better communicators and collaborators. I recently interviewed keynote speaker and performance coach Carol Lempert for my podcast, Destination on the Left, to learn new ideas and techniques for improving communication skills. Carol shared insights including how to sound and look confident, how to pitch an idea, and how to use high gain questions to make stronger connections and create better collaborations.
Sound & Look Confident
How will sounding and looking confident make you a better collaborator? It has to do with your overall presence on the collaborative team. There are four areas that will improve your presence and therefore improve your ability to share ideas, get buy-in on ideas and be a productive contributor.
1.Being in the moment
People who are in the moment and fully engaged in meetings are more likely to gain the trust and respect of their colleagues. Multi-tasking during meetings or being preoccupied with other thoughts or activities can diminish your presence. “In a survey of 2,000 employees, Bain & Company found that among 33 leadership traits — including creating compelling objectives, expressing ideas clearly, and being receptive to input — the ability to be mindfully present (also called centeredness) is the most essential of all.” *
2. What do people see
Being mindful of how you are projecting yourself will lead to a better presence when working with others. Are people seeing someone who has anxiety or someone with lots of confidence? Does your body language project someone who is closed-off or someone who is open and willing to participate?
3. What do people hear
What you say will reflect on your presence and can demonstrate your level of interest in the other person or the project you are collaborating on. Asking non-judgmental questions that come from real curiosity will help you strengthen this area of your presence.
4. How do people feel
How you make people feel when you interact with them impacts your overall presence and likability. Do people feel heard? Do they feel that they are in a safe environment where they can freely share ideas and add to the conversation? Are they feeling dismissed? Do they feel that their ideas are not being acknowledged? Improving your listening skills can make a high impact on this part of your overall presence.
Pitching an Idea
After pitching an idea- wait for a response to make sure there is buy-in.
Ask open ended questions such as “What do you think?” Resist trying to force agreement or force a yes answer by asking a closed ended question. “Do you like my idea?”
Open-ended questions start questions with what or how – why works too but be careful- that can put people on the defensive. Two great questions to have in your toolbox are:
What have I missed?
What are your thoughts?
Good business is built on good questions
You can use high gain questions to express real curiosity. These questions tell you something about the other person, they make the other person feel safe enough to share and they provide a deeper understanding of the person’s values and what is important to them.
Examples of high gain questions:
Where in your career have you experienced a successful collaboration?
When did you first learn how to collaborate and what was that experience like?
What are the things that will hold people back?
What are the things that people are missing?
Listening skills are key to using high gain questions
- Paraphrase back to the other person what you heard – make them feel heard and acknowledged.
- You can build on their thoughts and go to another level.
- Listening at a deeper level will help you understand what is important to the other person.
- People will always reveal their values when sharing their point of view.
Disagreements are healthy for building ideas and solutions to problems. When we get stuck because of a disagreement, it’s often because our values are in conflict. A technique to move past this is to acknowledge the other person’s values and focus on the problem at hand. Move off of the emotional and back to the problem you are solving together.
Self-awareness – when you become aware of your own emotional feelings in a conversation, first step back, take a deep breath and bring yourself back to a rational mind.
Social awareness – if you observe a colleague getting emotional – pause and acknowledge their emotion by saying “I see you are really passionate about this, can you elaborate a little more about why that is important to you.” Let the person calm themselves down and then restate the problem you are trying to solve and restart the conversation.
Responding to questions you don’t know the answers to.
- Resist the parking lot. Instead of putting the question aside (in a “parking lot”), put it on the shopping list. Then shop for ideas or information around that question and bring it back to the next meeting. Parking lots can diminish trust and make people feel pushed aside.
- 60% of the time this answer will work: “What an interesting question, I don’t know either. Let’s find out together.”
These communication tips and techniques can be used no matter what type of collaborator you are, or which types you’re working with. Do you know your collaborator type? Find out in 60 seconds what type of collaborator you are, take our quiz!