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Your Silence Speaks Volumes: Speak and Lead Proactively

Your Silence Speaks Volumes: Speak and Lead Proactively

 

How you communicate as a leader is critical. There’s nothing new in that. However, what I’m finding more frequently is that leaders aren’t appreciating how loudly their silence speaks to their teams and what their silence says about their leadership. Whether it’s a company president, director of regional sales, or a team lead, leaders are staying silent too often. Their silence is not motivated by a fear of crossing a line on political correctness. Their silence is instead driven by a fear of unintentionally influencing their team’s thoughts or behaviors, and potentially stifling their team’s ability to take on new challenges. So instead, they say and do nothing.

Leaders aren’t appreciating how loudly their silence speaks to their teams and what it says about their leadership.

Wanting your team members to develop their own project plans, conduct their own research, or brainstorm their own solutions to a new problem obviously helps your team members develop these skills. However, if some basic up front communication from you can save them time, effort, or tension, speak up. Start speaking and leading proactively.

In several instances recently, leaders have shared their reasons for staying silent during key moments of a meeting or work session I’ve facilitated:

  • I didn’t want to dominate the conversation.
  • I didn’t like the way the conversation was going, but I knew if I said anything, the team would stop talking.
  • I don’t want them to think I have all the answers.
  • I wanted to see what they came up with before I shared what I thought they should have considered in their research.
  • I don’t want them to be intimidated and think they have to drop their ideas and do what I suggest.
  • I’ve learned that if I ask too many questions, they get defensive.

Again, at first glance, their explanations seem noble. However, their reluctance to comfortably communicate, created a notable tension for the team even as I encouraged the leaders to share their insights. Their explanations also highlight other leadership challenges they’re facing:

  • I didn’t want to dominate the conversation.
    • If you’re afraid you may dominate the conversation, don’t dominate the conversation. Control what you say, how much you talk, and when. Contribute don’t dominate.
  • I didn’t like the way the conversation was going, but I knew if I said anything, the team would stop talking.
    • If the conversation is moving in a direction you will not support, why allow the team to continue down that path? Why not speak up right away and explain your concerns. Highlight any aspects of what you’d heard that you’d like to see developed further. Provide guidance and feedback in real time to encourage their work. Don’t stay silent in the meeting only to toss out the team’s ideas after the meeting. They won’t take ownership of the plan if that’s your team development strategy.
  • I don’t want them to think I have all the answers - AND - I wanted to see what they came up with before I shared what I thought they should have considered in their research.
    • If you don’t have all the answers, tell your team up front: “I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I do know so far…” or “I haven’t thought this out, but my initial concerns for this are…” By sharing what you do or don’t know, as well as what your concerns may be up front, you are saving your team time and providing information they can consider, build upon, or refute as they do their research. However, when you only share what you know after the team has presented their ideas and they did not include your concerns or information, they have every right to feel as if you’re playing “Gotcha!” with them. You knew information and intentionally kept it from them. Because of your intentional lack of upfront communication and leadership, you caused them more work or rework, and that’s why they’re frustrated with you.
  • I don’t want them to be intimidated and think they have to drop their ideas and do what I suggest.
    • If you don’t want the team to be intimated, don’t intimidate them and don’t allow them to defer to you without question. Tell the team that you don’t want them to simply agree with you. You need to continue to learn yourself. So encourage them to explain specifically why they agree with your ideas. What are the merits, weaknesses, and challenges posed by your idea and theirs? Through this discussion, you all may land upon an idea that is an even better approach. Work to establish a relationship with your team within which they can comfortably push back, ask questions, challenge your ideas, and disagree with your ideas. Facilitate don’t intimidate.
  • I’ve learned that if I ask too many questions, they get defensive.
    • If your team shuts down when you ask a series of questions, explain to them it helps you process their ideas by working through them layer by layer, question by question. You’re asking questions to help you process their ideas not to back the team into a corner. Thank them for working with you to think this through. By telling them they are helping you, you will be helping them learn how to engage more comfortably in challenging conversations that enable you and them to probe deeper into the issues you and they need to address.

If some basic up-front communication from you can save your team time, effort, or tension, speak up. Speak up and lead your team more proactively.

 

 

Copyright MMXXI - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!

 

 

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.


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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on March 23, 2021 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,