So why do I believe that the hardest thing for leaders to do is to shut up...I mean, be quiet? Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to interview Ken Schiller, co-owner of K&N Management here in Austin. K&N Management runs four Rudy's BBQ restaurants and 4 Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries, and Shakes restaurants. One of the things he said repeatedly is that if he is smarter than any of the members on his team, he has hired the wrong people. He was also a man of few words (never a good idea to invite someone for an interview who has learned to shut up...I mean, be quiet). I realized that his success is due to the fact that he hires well, takes care of his people, and really listens to them. The paradox is in the fact that by hiring people who are a whole lot smarter than him, and then actually listening to them, might make him the smartest man in the room.
Those of us in leadership positions have so much to learn when it comes to shutting up...I mean, being quiet. Here are a few thoughts in how to be a better "shutter-upper:"
- learn to ask good questions, meaning they are not questions to which you already have an answer
- remind yourself that you do not have all the answers
- learn to take notes when others speak
- really believe that those around you have a lot to offer to the conversation
- allow others to lead by giving them roles and responsibilities that put them up front
- resist the urge to explain everything you say
- realize that sometimes people get tired of hearing you talk
- ask other people their opinions
- put a sign on your desk or in your notebook or on your computer that says "shut up" (I mean, "be quiet")
- don't always be the first one to offer an opinion
- ask those whom you trust to let you know when you are talking more than listening
- when you have the urge to respond, don't
I wish I could tell you that this was an easy task...it seems that it should be. But as I started out, this may be one of the hardest things a leader has to do. I know it is for me, and my guess is that if you are sitting in a leadership position, it is hard for you. You may not agree with me on this and believe that everything you have to say really matters. I urge you to consider trying shutting up (I mean, being quiet) for a week or two and see what happens. If you feel that your organization is worse off because of it, then by all means start talking again. But make sure that you are not the only one in the room who once again enjoys hearing your voice.