Why Great Leaders Talk Less

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By Jas Singh

Last December I finally got the chance to meet a new client I had been chasing for some time.

He was a partner at a boutique Private Equity firm based in the US that invests in the Financial Technology markets. A well renowned individual with a glittering career, working for the some of the best known names in business.

Someone who is commonly quoted in the financial press and who is a borderline celebrity in the financial markets.

We’d spoken numerous times over the phone, he’d interviewed a few of my candidates. But this was the first time we were to meet in person. Hopefully the beginning of a beautiful relationship I thought.

“So Jas, how can I help?” was his opening line.

“Well Peter, thanks for your time. I was just hoping to find out more about your business, see if you might be looking for good people either now or at some point in the future…”  I began to reply.

“Always looking for good people. Who’ve you got?” he fired back.

“Well…err.. it depends..” I replied. “Depends on what you are looking for.”

10 seconds into the conversation and he’d got straight to the point. Little small talk, straight down to business. This could be a pretty quick meeting I thought….

An hour later, I was shaking his hand in reception. What a great guy I thought. Really took the time to understand our business. Really seemed interested in what I had to say. Sure, he was a bit direct but the meeting had been so productive. Lot’s to follow up on, hopefully some business to sign up soon.

What a great leader. He really had a way with words.

It was then that I realised that he’d said hardly anything. In fact, most of the time I had been speaking. And yet for some reason I’d still felt that he was totally in control of the conversation. Leaving the meeting, I was desperate to work him.

He’d spoken less, but had inspired me more.

It’s often said that the less men think, the more they talk. In a world of noise and over crowdedness we often feel we have to make our point whenever the opportunity arises.

Yet often the opposite is true. Great leaders inspire and influence more by actually talking less.

Here are some reasons why great leaders talk less.

It builds credibility

Ever been driven up the world by someone who just went on and on? Getting bored of someone’s voice? Wasting hours in meetings only to feel you’ve accomplished nothing?

All of us know someone who could talk for England. In truth, all of us have probably been that person at some time or another. Whether we’re trying to convince colleagues, influence a sale or be the life of the party often our keenness means we’re looking for any opportunity to get our opinion across. To get a word in whenever we can.

Yet in scarcity there is power. Those who speak only when they have something important to say gain more respect. We value their opinion. The become more credible.

Great leaders only speak when they have something useful to offer.

It allows more time to think

For those in knowledge based professions, our success in the workplace is determined by the decisions we make. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, product management or finance, the better your decisions the better your performance.

Often these decisions need to be made on the spot. When you’re face-to-face with a client or completing your annual appraisal with your boss. These decisions may also be quite complex – needing to consider various factors and perspectives.

Speaking less allows us more time to think things through properly. Despite what we think, our brains our programmed to respond better when they focus on one things at a time. If we are talking endlessly with no structure and end goal, our decision making capabilities are compromised.

Great leaders talk less and think more. They process information more thoroughly to make better decisions. They speak when they have thought things through.

They think before they speak.

It allows more opportunity listen

However single handily the biggest benefit of speaking less is that it allows us all to focus on something else. Something that most of us could probably improve on.

And that is to listen more.

It is virtually impossible to listen attentively if you are in the midst of full flowing conversation. Try it, it’s very difficult. And since leadership is essentially about serving others, listening deeply is an essential skill.

Those who listen gather more valuable information on the needs and aspirations of others.

Those who listen develop deeper connections and relationships with others.

Those who listen are always easy to talk to.

You see as social creatures, we are all craving to be heard. We all have something to say – whether it is about ourselves, our careers or even what we thought about our favorite TV programme last night. Those who can listen to others first, before focussing on what they have to say will always serve better.

Great leaders use their ears more than their mouth.

Conclusion

Master salesman have known for generations that the more they can speak their prospects talking, the better the chance of closing the sale.

The same is true in leadership or indeed any profession that involves working with others – in other words the vast majority of jobs today.

Hiring managers should focus not only on those who can speak up for themselves, but who also listen, think and understand when the time is necessary.

Do you know a chatterbox?

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