Women at the Water Cooler Tip # 11 - When to be quiet

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Most times when working with clients I am offering strategies for learning how to find their voice, expand their voice, get heard, speak up, and make themselves known. You see the direction.

However, a great leader knows when to be quiet. When to stop, listen, inquire vs. tell or simply avoid a conversation because itís not in your best interest to speak up.

What might some examples be of when to be quiet? Great question. If what you mostly hear as a leader is that you donít communicate to your team, your peers, your organization enough you might consider when to be quiet. Something I too often see is a leader, especially at the senior most levels, not realizing that itís perfectly appropriate to not know an answer. Itís important to have your own perspective, an idea about how things should go, but important to inquire of others about their perspectives. People like to feel included in your thinking. Your team is especially sensitive to being included at the appropriate times in helping you brainstorm ideas about something even if you may think you have a robust solution all by yourself.

One of my clients, a very senior person heading up an entire finance organization for a large company doesnít recognize the value of asking others for their help or opinions. He tends to have a reputation of being the smartest person in the room which means heís very used to sharing his opinions and perspective and expecting to be providing the Ďrightí answer. In working with him and speaking to his boss and his team, we discovered that though heís got a fabulous reputation of being very smart, he also has the reputation of not including others or letting others in. his manager wants to help him brainstorm things like his talent succession strategy or his strategic plan. Itís not his managersí belief that heís not bright enough to figure out an answer himself but his boss would like to be included in some of these conversations, especially since his boss knows the organization and itís politics much better than he does.

Another time it pays to be quiet is when you need to enroll the team in your vision or plan so they can most successfully execute it. There are two entirely different messages sent when you say, hereís what I want us to do vs. how might we create our path? What are your thoughts? Whatís most important to address? Too often managers donít realize that it might not pay to always have the solution and simply pass your thinking on. Sometimes we are better served by asking for guidance, support, thinking, help or input so you build a connection and network within your work environment. What is it they say? Two (or more) heads are often better than one.

Additionally, leaders can misstep when they donít pause, take a breath and wait to share their thoughts. Sometimes unrelated stress or anger can cause us to jump to conclusions or overreact. Itís much harder to apologize for inappropriate behavior (as you canít squeeze toothpaste back into the tube) than it is to be thoughtful and careful when having to give difficult feedback or share challenging or Ďloadedí information. Your ability to role model calm will allow others to also remain calm in times of potentially volatile situations.

If this is you, hereís what you might do:

* Find 1 -2 good opportunities this week to invite otherís thinking in a strategic discussion

* Consider a time recently, you misspoke, overreacted or said the wrong thing. Challenge yourself to circle back privately to someone and acknowledge your mistake and say what you should have. This models the kind of leader who recognizes the importance of effective communication and walks the talk.

Saara Robles, Executive Leadership Consultant and Coach has honed her talent to sense what's true, what's important and how to help others come to understand that for themselves. Saara invites you to connect with her on her Facebook Page and share resources that have been helpful to you. Women at the Watercooler

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