In Action, Change, Leaders

“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” – George Clooney

Most leaders talk too much.  There are a few exceptions, but not many.  Sometimes when I’m in leadership team meetings or board meetings I wonder if maybe some of them are getting paid by the word.

You could argue that the verbal avalanche isn’t entirely the leaders’ fault.  The world almost invites leaders to speak constantly.  People ask questions and then stare at the leader waiting for an answer.  Team members who never run out of things to say seem to become mute in a difficult situation and just wait for the leader to come up with something profound.  Sometimes leaders just fall into the trap of believing that they as the leader are supposed to have all the answers, so they give answers whether they really have them or not.

Pay attention to yourself for a day.  How many meetings do you dominate?  How many conversations end up turning into monologues?  I would guess that if most leaders really took note, they’d be shocked at how much talking they’re doing.

So why does it matter?  If you’re a leader, sometimes you probably think if you don’t talk nobody else will either, so what’s the problem?  Does it really make a difference if you control every conversation you’re ever part of?

Well, for one thing, you don’t have all the answers.  Just because your job title sounds impressive doesn’t mean you actually know a lot.  There are too many topics and too many things going on for you to always be the expert.

For another thing, all that talking shapes your organization’s culture.  If you want to have a culture where everybody’s an important part of the team, and everybody works towards the group’s success, and everything is about “we” not “me”, then you can’t be talking all the time.  You can’t be a team if everything’s all about one person.

Lastly, as a leader, you have to be constantly learning and growing and developing.  That won’t happen unless you consistently listen to others’ ideas, consider their points of view, challenge your assumptions, etc.  You won’t improve if you’re just recycling your own stuff.

Think about how you and your business function on a daily basis.  Do you spend all day giving sermons and making proclamations?  Or do you begin by listening?  Close your mouth, open your ears, and see what happens.

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