Teaching leaders how to talk with people, not at them 

Teaching leaders how to talk with people, not at them 

Ann Howie, formerly with American Century Investments


The Challenge

Communication issues are on everyone’s top ten list. Why? Because managers have expanded their “communication loop” as involvement has grown. The new audience is more diverse and demanding. Managers and project leaders can spend up to 75 percent of their day listening, talking, reading and writing. As a result, the first challenge is realizing the most effective way to communicate so individuals and businesses can move forward.

What follows is a personal account of one project leader. She attended the custom-designed curriculum developed by Team Tech, and the Organizational Development Department of the large global asset management firm where she is employed.


The Solution

“After reading the “Talking with, not at, people” course description, I hoped the workshop would provide ideas on how to find information that I needed to make more informed decisions. As a project leader, I hoped to expand my skills so that our project teams improved their communication and our projects could then move forward more efficiently and effectively.”

I attended the two-day course. Here is my assessment:

  • TeamTech provided common sense concepts using real life applications.
  • Listening topics that I’d heard, or read, before were presented with innovation and creativity, in a plain language manner that makes these concepts different and relevant, yet simple.
  • The diary we kept during class that included future planning and the one-on-one classmate discussions, allowed me to develop, critique, apply, and stick with what I had learned – not just for a week or two, but for several months now.
  • The questioning and pre-planning techniques have now become habit for me.
  • The most poignant “Ah Ha” moment for me during class was realizing that leaders/managers don’t have to know/have all the answers themselves. What leaders need is an understanding of how to use the resources and people that surround them. You can be a leader, facilitator and/or guide without being the official “manager” or “project leader.”
  • The class also provided tools to draw out missing information and fill in the gaps. I was very excited to learn that I could also use these concepts to guide meetings and conversations from the side without seeming bossy or rude and taking over.


The Payoff

In my personal and professional life (work, home, church, etc.) this course and the concepts taught provided many positive effects.

  • As an analyst, project lead, co-worker, peer, daughter, sister, wife, and mom; nearly every day, I find myself asking my personalized version of the questions Kathleen and Joel provided during class. And yes, I still keep my reference list in my planner (it goes everywhere I do.)
  • I’ve found that this approach brings about more open and honest participation and a stronger commitment to projects because ideas and resolutions come from everyone involved. It is a way to guide and influence others [and myself], but I am not telling (talking AT), I am sharing (talking WITH). People realize the topics via their own experiences and learn for themselves. All of this fosters ownership, teamwork, better communication overall, and win-win results.
  • Practicing this for several months, I’ve found that people around me are adopting these same techniques. We accomplish more in shorter amounts of time, we trust each other more than we did previously, and we are more open and close than we were before. We collaborate and celebrate in coming up with solutions that are much better than if we’d worked on things on our own.
  • I think another real benefit of the course is that Joel and Kathleen, by example, use these techniques to facilitate the entire class. You walk away having experienced the difference of being ‘spoken WITH’ versus being ‘spoken TO.'”