Leaders need to talk.
They must cast vision. They must issue challenges. They must extend encouragement.
But just as importantly, effective leaders also grasp another fundamental truth:
Sometimes leaders need to just stop talking.
These are times when the most effective communication strategy is not say a thing.
1. When it’s time to listen
When the vision casting is over, when the cheer-leading is done, the most important role of the leader is to just listen. “What is the team saying?” “What are they thinking about?” “What do they think is important?”
Leaders must be master listeners. And for that to happen, the talking needs to end.
2. When it’s time to think
In many leadership circles, thinking has become an almost lost art. Of all the leadership disciplines, the simple act of thinking may be the most under-rated. It’s in thinking that leaders develop ideas, process complex information, and formulate important perspectives.
But if they keep talking, that can’t start thinking.
3. When it’s time to observe
Leaders must be observers of talent. They must be observers of performance. They must be observers of teamwork.
But the act of careful observation happens best when the leader stops talking.
4. When it’s time to decide
Ever been in a meeting when everyone seemed to know it was time to make a decision…but the leader just kept talking and talking and talking?
A conversation that just keeps dieseling around in circles will drive any high-performance team crazy.
Leaders need to know when it’s time to stop talking and to start leading.
5. When it’s time to act
Several years ago, a backup quarterback in the National Football League was thrust into the game with two minutes to play. The starting QB was injured, and with time winding down the young backup needed to generate a game-winning drive.
Arriving in the huddle this inexperienced quarterback attempted to inspire his veteran teammates by going on at length about the great victory that was within their grasp. After babbling on for several minutes, one of the linemen reached over, grabbed the quarterback’s arm and growled, “Just call the play!”
Leaders need to know when it’s time to stop inspiring, and to start executing.
Being an effective leader means being an effective communicator.
And while that certainly means knowing when to speak up, be sure you’re also savvy enough to know when to pipe down.