Are You Missing the Messages Hidden in Silence?

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Effective leaders know that the art of communication is as much about listening as it is about talking. But to really master this art, leaders must learn to listen to, and interpret, silence as much as they listen to words.

If you’re going to really understand what is happening with your team and with your organization it is vitally important that you learn to pay attention to silence, and to understand what the silence means.

As a starting point, here are 3 messages that silence could be telling you…

“I am not producing results.”

When things are going well, your team will become a virtual chatterbox of updates and information. If the results are strong your email inbox will be jammed full of updates and data. People will be dropping by your office to give you the latest glowing reports on the success of the project.

But when projects are not going well, things will sometimes grow strangely silent. When results are weak, when problems are brewing or when there is little progress you might find little chatter coming from your team.

Pay attention to the silence of poor results.

“I am unhappy.”

Long before someone announces that they are unhappy and thinking about leaving the team, they first communicate this by their silence.

Whether it’s because of a disagreement with you, frustration with their role or inability to advance, the first signs are often to be found in silence. There could be fewer contributions in meetings, slower responses to your inquiries and a drop off in new ideas.

Pay attention to the silence of discontent.

“I am not engaged with our purpose.”

Sometimes even a high performer can withdraw from the overall goals of the team. They might continue to produce results, but if they don’t align with the team’s vision they can become more of a solo act.

And the first indicator of this is silence.

You might not hear them celebrate team wins and you could hear very little enthusiasm for progress towards the organization’s goals.

Pay attention to the silence of low engagement.

In may cases, silence can be interpreted as bad news. Learn to discern what the silence could be telling you.

Because in leadership, what is not being said is as important as what is being said.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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