I was running on the treadmill the other morning and flipped the channel to one of my favorite local TV sports talk shows. I really like one sportscaster, a gifted analyst who doesn't lead with his ego. His co-anchor is the polar oposite - rude and obnoxious, even by sports talk standards. The topic was the just announced NFL collective bargaining agreement and Mr. Rude kicked it off with a question.
"Who won? Owners or players?" he asks. Then, after a nano-pause, he jumps back in. "Before I let you answer I'm going to talk first, because frankly I like to answer my own questions," he says.
Mr. Rude proceeds to opine about how the players won because with the horsetrading they earn roughly the same total dollars, though their percentage of revenue was reduced to less than half. Finally he takes a breath. Next up, a sportswriter for the local newspaper darts in and out with his quick take. And now it's my favorite guy's turn.
No sooner does he utter the words, "Well I have to disagree," than Mr. Rude jumps in and interrupts. My guy pleads, "Just let me finish," and has to raise his voice and overtalk Mr. Rude just to finish a single thought.
You have to feel sorry for the loud mouth's wife. She must know that the person her husband is really in love with is the man in the mirror.
But this bugs me for a deeper psychological reason. Forgive me for laying down on the couch and confessing, but I have to admit that I too sometimes ask and answer my own questions. Way more than I should.
Perhaps... I hope... I'm not quite so obnoxious. But let's face it - one of the hardest things to do as a leader is to hold your opinion until the end. Perhaps you'd be willing to admit you too have suffered from "answermyownquestionitis."
If you are the boss - who is going to call you on this behavior? LOOK like you're about to give your opinion first, and everybody else shuts up. Why stick their necks out if you might later disagree? Easier to nod their heads and go do what the boss wants than to risk an errant opinion.
Listening is the hardest skill a leader has to learn. In leadership communication training, listening is a constant topic, yet deep down most people think they're really good at it.
I guess step one in conquering "answeryourownquestionitis" is to recognize your innner interrupter, and catch yourself screwing up.
Of course if you decide it isn't that important -you can always fall back on a career in sports talk.