Let’s be honest, most companies have one. Heck, I bet you don’t even have to think very hard to identify who it is in your company. You may even have more than one!
What am I talking about? – I’m talking about “THAT guy.” “Who is he?” you ask. He’s the guy that most of us try to avoid. The guy that says, “You got a minute?” and then proceeds to take 30. He’s the guy that needs at least 20 slides in his PowerPoint deck in order to present a basic idea. He’s the guy that doesn’t get to the point in a meeting and just seems to drone on and on. He’s the guy, if you are being completely honest, you have actually tried to physically avoid in the hallway to prevent a long, boring interchange! In brief, THAT guy is the one who tells you how to build the proverbial watch when you ask what the time is!
How is it THAT guy can remain oblivious to how we feel about him? Doesn’t he know he’s hurting his career and alienating his peers? The scary thing is, THAT guy can go on for years without having a clue. Why you ask? I believe, when it comes to candid feedback, we become more refined and politically correct than we were in grade school. In school, the kid who asked for more homework would get peas thrown at him in the cafeteria or a dodge ball to the head in gym class. We were more direct in our feedback mechanisms.
Today, in our “professional” lives, we are more passive with our feedback. Do these sound familiar? 1) The quick eye roll, 2) the urgent call we must take so we leave the meeting, 3) the skill of checking your blackberry under the table during the presentation so you can still get real work done. While these practices help maintain our sanity, they don’t do much for helping THAT guy change.
While a post on giving constructive feedback is a good future topic, that is not my purpose today. For now, I want you to remember four fundamental skills and practices to be sure you don’t become THAT guy.
4 techniques to avoid becoming “THAT guy” :
- Read your Audience: the biggest mistake THAT guy makes is not reading his audience. The subtle (or not so subtle) cues are there for anyone who looks. Don’t get so immersed in talking that you fail to read the energy, dynamic and simple body language of those around you. If this is really hard, first practice in meetings where you are not presenting.
- Don’t be Jay Leno – skip the monologue: Get to the point quickly. You don’t need 3 examples, 2 stories and 1 metaphor to make every point! Chances are you work with reasonably bright people – state your position in a succinct, focused manner. If they want an example or need you to elaborate let them ask.
- Remember – Less is More: There are many books out there that talk about how to do effective presentations. It is an acquired skill to put together an effective PowerPoint deck – take the time to acquire the skill. Check these out as a start: The Seven Slide Solution by Paul Kelly and Harvard Business Review on Effective Communication (ISBN – 1-57851-143-7)
- Build Situational Awareness: This is harder to explain. Is there someone in your organization who seems like they really “get it”? If so, they may be good examples of people who have mastered situational awareness. This is the ability to see the dynamics in the room, read the subtle messages, have a high self-awareness and somehow make regular, discreet adjustments to his/her delivery and style to fit the current scenario. This means they can speed up, slow down, get more detailed, get less detailed, push for consensus or stop for questions in a seamless, fluid manner. Sounds like a lot, but if you take time to study it and master it – you’ll go far.
Bosses notice those who “get it.” These are the individuals that seem to climb in the organization. Bosses also notice THAT guy. I believe, the higher you go in an organization, the lower the tolerance for THAT guy. If you find that, metaphorically speaking, you are consistently picked last for the kickball team – it could be that you have more of THAT guy in you than you thought. Fix it now and get your career journey back on track!