What if the next time a team member came to share something with you, you listened and then asked, "Could you say more?”
“If more leaders used these four magic words, there would be more effective organizations, more bonuses and more satisfied customers,” said Robert W. Jake Jacobs, author of “Leverage Change: 8 Ways to Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results.”
When a team member comes to you, realize the courage it took them to come forward, Jacobs advises. “Even if you have an open-door policy, even if the last 10 people who’ve come through your door have had good ideas that you’ve used, it still takes courage every time to step up and speak your truth.”
When a leader asks, “Could you say more?,” it’s an invitation to continue the conversation.
This helps leaders learn more about what the person meant and what their intention is. It encourages them to share more of the thought process behind what they’re saying. “It’s not just the surface-level communication,” Jacobs said. “It’s also the strategic thinking that led them to that conclusion.”
What we’re trying to do as leaders is serve our people by educating them and letting them understand the bigger picture, Jacobs said. “Asking this question creates a whole organization of curiosity. And if people are curious, they’re not afraid any more. Courage isn’t even a word that has to be spoken.”
The added benefit of leaders asking, “Could you tell me more?” is that people start to ask these questions of each other.
“Wouldn’t it be helpful if people really understood the meaning of what their colleagues meant when they said something?” Jacobs asks. “Then you get to really smart, strategic action because it’s informed collectively and we’re aligned. When we move forward, we move forward together.”
So the next time someone stops you in the hallway, steps into your office or shares with you in a Zoom call, have these four words ready. The results will be a more engaging, strategic and insightful conversation.