The secret to being an exceptional leader is sometimes as simple as embracing silence. When you are visiting with a team member or potential client and the conversation lulls, it can feel uncomfortable riding out the silence. You want to keep moving the conversation forward and show how you provide value.
Sometimes you need to allow space for silence. It is in these moments, that you can learn something invaluable you may not have caught otherwise.
Take a two-second pause. Remember that you can be comfortable through long pauses. Two seconds is all you need. When you hear something new, pause for two seconds before responding or answering their question. While it may seem like an uncomfortably long time to wait, make it a habit to mentally count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand.” There is a good chance that your team member will have taken that pause to think or to provide more information.
Ask your people to elaborate on something. Your team member probably knows the details of their work better than you. They are collaborating with other team members and look to provide their best work. This is an opportunity for you to prompt them to learn more. You can say something like “Why is that?” or “Can you tell me more about that?” Asking a follow-up question improves the likelihood of learning new and helpful information.
Avoid interrupting. No one likes to be interrupted. Yet, many leaders jump in and interrupt when someone is speaking. When you interject your own thoughts or questions while your team, you interrupt their train of thought. You also come across as rude resulting in less information being shared in the future. If you are excited to share something or have a question, always wait for your turn to speak. Silence is golden.
Many leaders are overly focused on organizational goals and not their team members. They do not take time to truly listen, and they often make the mistake of filling every quiet moment with conversation. When you spend too much time talking, you make it difficult for buyers to express their unique needs and situation. They cannot fully understand what you are offering because they have no time to process the information.
If you typically fill the silence with words, make a point to pause. You never know what you will learn simply by taking a few breaths before continuing the conversation. When you learn to listen more and speak less, you position yourself as a thoughtful leader who gives team members time and space to think. You just might see your team improve by embracing the concept that silence is golden. And this will help you thrive.