We love to talk. We came from the manufacturer that way. It seems that leaders are talkers. Indeed, some languages have no word that would translate “leader”. Their word is orator, one who speaks eloquently.
So we tend to say things…a lot of things. But perhaps there are times when we shouldn’t.
You don’t have to say something just to say something. When a group of mentors met to assist an entire team of potential business owners, the sponsoring institution conducted a follow-up debriefing. Wanting to improve the program, the coordinator asked for input. One mentor had something to say about each and every idea anyone and everyone else brought up to the point he made some ridiculous suggestions. He just had to say something. It was Mark Twain who said that it is better to remain silent and let people think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Know when enough is enough, when to stop talking. When offering congratulations, we often ramble on and on and on. Congratulations well and sincerely spoken are weighty enough. More talking tends to dilute the impact and diminish the effect. The same thing happens when making a point. Learn how to make your point, conclude your statement, and finish speaking. In speeches a fine conclusion is as important as a powerful opening.
Acknowledge and submit to the reality that too much talking causes over-exposure, you become background noise. The more you talk, the less others listen. Like music played in elevators and restaurants, it becomes something to ignore, something to push back from. The last thing you want is to be deemed irrelevant and talking too much pushes you toward that label. To be more effective in what you say, speak economically.
Too much talking discourages others from talking much at all and trains everyone to wait for you to talk. When planning a meeting, give others a heads up. Notify ahead of time that you want others to speak up. If the attitude that you do all the talking is well-entrenched, try assigning others a portion of the subject –“Mike, would you prepare to share with us all 4 or 5 reasons why we should move ahead with this project?” Or, Sarah, when we meet on Tuesday, would you give us all an up-to-the-minute status report on the Henderson project?”
The more you talk, the less you listen. We are all guilty of making assumptions. Let me use a non-threatening example. I stepped up to the counter and the clerk asked what I would like. I tried to order donuts but as soon as she asked me for my order she began speaking to another employee behind the counter, her words stepping on mine.
“Will that be all?” she asked.
I challenged her. “What did I order?”
She counted back my order. I had asked for only two types of donut but she got both of them wrong. Why, because she was so busy talking she did not really listen.
You get what you reward. If you want to encourage the input of others, if you want to develop others and sharpen their skills, don’t be so quick to dismiss their ideas. Shooting down every suggestion…no, let me rephrase that…shooting down most suggestions will soon teach others not to make any. Even if their idea needs work, learn to instruct without disputing. Engage them on the process of discovering where a flaw might be. Don’t be so quick to point it out.
Leaders often defeat themselves. They claim no one will speak up, no one listens to them, no one has any ideas when almost always it is not anyone’s fault but their own. Know when to talk and when to shut up.