In The Trenches

Do you hear the echo?

Published on February 14, 2022 Back to blog
James Mirrored

While up in Maine with my family a few weeks ago, James (our 1-year old Corgi) was barking non-stop outside. At first, I didn’t pay much attention (sometimes, it’s best to just ignore him). But, after about 10 minutes, I had to go see what he was barking at. Turns out he was barking at himself. Or, more specifically, his echo. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, and found it very difficult to explain the echo phenomenon to a dog. So, I just brought him inside, and the “mysterious other dog” stopped barking.

While the situation was very entertaining, I couldn’t help but think of how a similar “echo” dynamic can happen in the work environment – and how we might better prevent it from occurring:

1. Stop talking. The simplest way to stop the echo is just to stop talking. You may be surprised by what you hear. (Side note: I recently realized that “silent” is an anagram to “listen.” Coincidence? I think not.)

 2. Invite diversity. If you want approval, invite your mother to the meeting. If you want improvement, invite people with differing opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds. You will most likely hear thoughts and insights that you’ve never before considered.

3. Ask questions. The echo becomes more obvious when a “repeat response” doesn’t fit the bill. Ask questions that encourage individual thinking and constructive debate.

4. Turn down the volume. Just like a Zoom call, turning down the volume can be a good remedy for fixing the echo. Speak a bit more softly, and the echo will certainly dissipate, enabling others to more easily (and confidently) chime in.

 5. Leave the room. If you want honest feedback and insights, consider leaving the room for a while. It may make others more comfortable speaking up. (Once James came inside, the ducks on the pond certainly began quacking).

Hearing yourself talk and getting validation from all those around you can be very satisfying. However, it can also get in the way of the real progress that comes from differing opinions, healthy debate, constructive criticism, and true collaboration. So, the next time you feel like you’re talking in an echo chamber, I recommend heeding the advice above. (I certainly will.)  

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners