Leading teams? Use smart silence

When leading teams, resist the urge to overdo it. Some facilitators jump in and play fixer as soon as the group hits a snag.

But the team won’t grow if you intervene too soon—or too often.

•  The most effective team leaders master the art of silence. They know when to keep quiet and let the group forge its own solution.

There are pivotal moments in every team meeting where the group nears a big decision. Participants may look to the leader at that point, expecting the facilitator to crystallize the discussion and draw a tidy conclusion.

Team members may assume you’re the final arbiter. But by re­­maining silent, you signal that it’s up to them to reach consensus or agree on an action plan.

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•  Keep your views or preferences to yourself. If you volunteer your opinion or insist on speaking first whenever the team delves into a new topic, you stifle debate. Some if not all of the participants will figure the matter is settled—and that challenging you will prove fruitless.

If you want to share your views, wait until everyone has spoken. Use phrases such as, “Here’s another consideration” or “Experience has taught me to factor in … ” That’s better than making “You should” statements.

Some teams veer from the mission. Redirect everyone to focus on what matters most if they stray too far from the scope and boundaries you’ve set. That’s a rare instance when silence works against you; unless you intervene, the team can waste time on extraneous issues.

— Adapted from “Seven keys to more effectively leading teams,” Kevin Eikenberry, blog.kevineikenberry.com.