Silence is Not Golden

Every team has one. The natural team leader. The loud one. The vocal one. The one who isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings on every and any topic that comes to mind. This is the person who is the first to answer questions in meetings and the one who dominates the flow, the emotions, and the overall mindset of the group. This is the one who others look to first when considering new ideas or challenging ones. This person is the one who we never worry about not knowing what they think or how they will act.


For us, as winning leaders, it is important to recognize this person for who they are. They are valuable to the dynamics of a winning team. They are definitely dominant and extroverted in their personality, but also they are typically highly committed and have a strong drive for exceeding expectations. We must understand that we cannot ignore them. We must learn what their needs are and fill those needs in truckloads in order to keep their commitment level high. It also means that we must challenge them, push them and not let them off the hook when they struggle with something.


Often times for new leaders, these vocal performers may seem intimidating and as a result the leader shrinks away from their role as a coach and mentor. Trouble happens with this behavior however. Highly committed people need direction and support. They don’t need their hands held or every action micromanaged, but they do need leadership. They look for it. They crave it. They want to work for a leader who models the very behaviors that they strive for within themselves.


Leaders need to provide clear direction and expectations around what these highly committed team members need to do. They need to understand what to do and how to do it. There cannot be any cloudiness around what specific skills and knowledge are required to do the tasks and they need to feel the importance of what they are attempting to do. Knowing the “whys” behind what is asked reinforces the high commitment of these top performers.


On the flip-side, every team has the other type of performer. The one who is quiet in meetings or on conference calls. The one who is the last to volunteer but always appears mentally engaged and thoughtful. This person, on the surface, may not appear to be a natural leader or highly committed to their role but this initial view may be a dangerous one. Not everyone can be highly vocal. There is only so much airtime in meetings and the more introverted team members struggle with finding their own time in the spotlight because the extroverts consume it so strongly. What we, as winning leaders, need to understand however is that there are often powerful thoughts and ideas laying quietly in the minds of these performers.


Introverts process information internally. Extroverts process information externally. The introverts have opinions, they’re not necessarily shy, they just like to think about the information before they openly share with a group. They think about what they want to say but then struggle to get it out because of all of the competition from the rest of the team. What is hidden however is that often times these performers think about all angles of what message is being delivered by the leader and they consider all possibilities. These considerations are crucial for the leaders to hear.


As winning leaders we must draw out the thoughts and opinions of all team members. Silence is not golden. In silence lies questions, doubts, concerns or “golden nuggets” which are the big ideas that can dramatically impact a team and its results.


In order for a leader to close all Knowledge Gaps, information must be shared from all of the team members. How do we do this? Firstly, being aware of hidden thoughts is key. Everyone has their own hidden thoughts and we must ask questions to draw them out. Beginning questions with words like, “who, what, why, where, when, and how” creates open-ended situations that must be answered and creates a culture where every single member of the team must share. Secondly, strategically dedicating specific airtime to everyone allows all of them the time to get his or her feelings out. Going around the room and specifically asking each person for their thoughts doesn’t allow anyone to hide, but also demonstrating sincere appreciation for all contributions allows the introverts a safe environment in which to participate.


Golden nuggets are hard to find. We must stop and look for them. We must dig until we find them. We cannot allow unspoken thoughts to go unspoken. Without hearing the opinions of every team member we create Knowledge Gaps for ourselves and may miss the shiniest nuggets of all.


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