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The Coaching Corner with Michael Riegel: Silence Can Be Golden

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The hit show Hamilton provides the advice to “smile more and speak less.”  I would amend that and drop the first part though a pleasant demeanor can also be helpful.  I suspect you may have heard the “you should smile more” advice before in a condescending or paternalistic manner.  I like the idea of speaking less for many reasons. 
Despite my natural inclination to “think to talk”, I often find myself going on too long – particularly if I am passionate about the subject.  I also recognize that some are “talk to think” and must verbalize and hear the words for their ideas to be fully formed.  In either case, or if you are somewhere in the middle, there are some benefits as a leader and manager to talking less to achieve better outcomes. 
Frame the Issue 
In meetings or brainstorming sessions, set the table for the discussion.  Identify the challenge to be overcome without offering an opinion as to the solutions for consideration.  This may include the external changes that necessitate a new approach.  Schedule changes due to supply chain problems.  Underperforming subcontractors.  New client expectations. 
Allow for Input 
As a leader, a significant part of your job is to empower and grow your team members.  Give them the room to offer opinions and possible solutions.  Remember, speak less.  Separate the idea generation from the idea evaluation.  By providing an open forum, your team members will feel heard and more invested in the solution – even if it’s not their own. 
Synthesize the Information 
We often believe in the idea that we multitask effectively.  Ask any PM or parent and they will easily describe all the balls they have in the air at any one time.  We can only handle one task at a time.  By speaking less, you will have a greater ability to hear the information and synthesize it in a reasonable and productive way. 
Be Smarter Not the Smartest 
I’m sure you can easily recall a meeting where someone clearly felt as though they were the smartest in the room.  The one whose opinion was better or more valuable than everyone else.  Except that the others could all recognize the flaw in that thinking.  Strive to be and sound smarter.  Speaking less will allow for better solutions and to articulate them in a more coherent and confident fashion. 
Some advocate that a leader should be the last person to speak.  I believe that a leader should be the guide to deliver the team and a project to success.  By speaking less, you allow your team members to understand the challenges ahead and to be engaged and invested.  You will also sound and present like a rock star to your team, your clients, and your boss. 
I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the “room where it happens”, to end with another popular Hamilton refrain.  You can reach me at  
Michael Riegel 


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