The Selfishness of Silence
Crucial conversations are defined as discussions that involve three key components: high stakes, differing views, and strong emotions. As you think about that, consider the conversations that do not fall into this category: the weather, casual chatting, direct instructions, maybe petty complaints …
One thing is for sure, no meaningful leadership conversations are ever absent of high stakes, differing views, or strong emotions. Virtually every conversation we embark on as a leader is meaningful. The problem in leadership, of course, is not the conversations themselves - though they can be very challenging. The bigger problem is the avoidance of them all together.
When confronted with crucial conversations, we only have three choices: have them and handle them poorly, have them and handle them well, or don’t have them. The final choice is the option most choose, or defer, to. Crucial conversations are certainly a time when doing nothing is a choice in, and of, itself.
In a team setting, rather than choosing to have crucial conversations, we are drawn to avoid them. Having them, even if executed poorly, at least demonstrates the courage to prioritize the team over ourselves. But, avoiding them, now that’s a different story.
Why Should We Care?
“If this team fails to reach its goal this season, what will the reason be?”
We ask this question to our team at the start of every season as a means to surface the biggest threat to every team: selfishness.
The answers all point in the same direction and summarize the same basic message: prioritizing ourselves over the team. This is the crux of every team, isn’t it? Choosing the team over the individual is the goal of coaches from peewee to the professional ranks. Leaders that are able to tap into the collective power of the team multiply their performance potential exponentially.
Our conversation following the initial question attempts to drill down on the idea of selfishness. Primarily, what it looks and sounds like within a team setting. We try to name it, to tame it you could say.
One thing becomes increasingly clear as the discussion unfolds: silence is selfish.
It could surface as an unwillingness to hold a teammate accountable or withholding praise for a teammate due to our own insecurity, but the message remains clear: my comfort is more important than you or the performance of the team.
Our willingness to avoid conversations that we know are beneficial to the individual and the team is nothing more than a reflection of our own selfishness.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
If communication weren’t such a challenge for teams, leaders wouldn’t constantly be talking about it as a needed area of improvement. The fact is, when it comes to a team setting, there is no such thing as over-communicating. We can’t make the message too clear. Here are a few ideas to fight the silence most are bent towards, especially in the mists of performance.
Most conversations are crucial. And, most either end in silence or violence. While blowing up and losing our temper can be detrimental to our leadership, we’ve found that the selfishness behind silence can be an even greater threat to our impact as leaders.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.