The Everyday Business Series: Quiet Thoughtfulness as a Competitive Strength
In answer to our Impono Followers asking for guidance on "every-day matters," we created "The Every-Business Series," an intense-read series based on 1-2 Points and created specifically for Impono's followers. Keep your feedback coming so we can be sure to continue addressing your questions!!
A few months ago I responded to a LinkedIn post about the importance of listening, especially in a leadership role. The underlying context wasn't just about listening, though. It was also about being thoughtful about how you respond. This spurred me to consider how many of our clients-- especially our startups-- go on to be successful with listening as a virtue.
All of the clients we have helped to fund and/or launch consistently have common traits: they listen, thoughtfully debate, and remain open to hearing different views and considerations before pressing on.
Those we deemed incompatible to our portfolio, where we found other advisors to help them, invariably were those whose leadership and management teams talked more than anyone else in the room, did not have the patience or consideration to listen to new or contrary ideas, and expected quick answers and thrived with high-speed (and often irrelevant) debates.
Those traits may seem like successful traits because here in the USA (and especially in the northeast and in Silicon Valley) aggressive translates to "hunger," and bullish translates to "ambitious," but the truth is those traits do not lead to sustaining success. In fact, we have seen those traits devalue a company in the long-run. Sure, certain companies may be very successful with leaders who have those traits, but many of us know the success is in spite of those traits, not because of them.
The question often persists: how successful could this company be if a quieter thoughtfulness ruled the management waves?
And so I decided to dedicate this post to the importance of quiet thoughtfulness when it comes to leading an organization.
Quiet Thoughtfulness Point #1:
Leaders Miss A Lot When They're Wrapped Up in Their Own Words...
I have been in a room of fellow executives where hundreds of words were spewed out at high speed, and nothing was understood, solved, or decided.
Most walked out thinking they were brilliant.
(they walked in that way, too)
Those of us who prefer a thoughtful exchange, speaking when we believe it will advance the discussion, we are often misunderstood or misjudged.
Some audaciously think we do not have strong opinions simply because we do not feel compelled to share them whether they are relevant or not.
Be wary of the leader who talks a lot. Be even more wary of the culture that never stops talking.
Quiet Thoughtfulness Point #2:
It is OK Not the Have All the Answers, All the Time
A "Quiet Thoughtfulness" style-- which could be described as listening and then speaking only when you can offer or add value-- is often rooted in an objective, an outcome, an endpoint. Leaders with this style live life by the tenant that it's not about us-- it's about the best-- so we put "us" aside and do what we can to get the best (see Point #1).
But it's more than that. We care about and live a culture of thinking things through in order to be responsible, planful and solid on the steps ahead.
Those who have never done this lack experience and practice, so they may mistakenly believe that that level of thought takes too much time. They may also feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable because without knowing how to be mindful or to practice quiet thoughtfulness, it can feel like you are not in control simply because you are not doing all the talking and you do not have all the answers, all the time.
The outcome of being mindful of your work reduces wasteful activities and irrelevant discussions. It enables everyone on your team to have a role based on their depth and expertise, and that means ownership, too. It leverages the collective and strengthens the organization.
This saves time.
Being thoughtful means a better decision with more meaningful buy-in. It means you can advance forward with the important considerations accounted for. The time it took to be thoughtful will always be less time than what it takes to fix or repeat the fallout from a hasty decision.
Quiet Thoughtfulness Point #3:
Practicing Quiet Thoughtfulness is Disruptive
In the traditional western sense, sometimes being "quiet" is considered passive, or worse: punitive. Many times being "thoughtful" is considered slow or wasteful of time.
However, we at Impono use Quiet Thoughtfulness as a strength and necessary skill for all leadership and management teams with whom we work.
It is not enough to be a good listener-- the "thoughtfulness" piece means you must receive the information, internalize it and decide what to do with it.
For companies recovering from culture and behavioral points 1 and 2 above, practicing Quiet Thoughtfulness is very disruptive.
Quiet Thoughtfulness means there is meaning, and that creates a culture of meaning, of purpose, of consideration for the outcome with emphasis placed on the goal.
What does this look like in practical terms? Well, for starters, you see it in how your team behaves:
They do not crawl all over each others' words simply to be sure to get their own words out;
They do not feel the have to prove they are "present" and "get it" by spilling out their thoughts, even when misaligned, irrelevant or do not make sense;
They do not feel compelled to step in and fill the space when there is a moment of silence in the room.
Nearly all humans admit to finding peace, clarity, insight and improved judgment when they have an opportunity to think, reflect, then communicate. Start-ups sometimes start at a pace that is so fast that they miss the bare essentials and create chaos right from the beginning. This glorified martyrship of a startup is risky, reckless and guarantees a poor and inefficient spend of someone else's money.
Quiet Thoughtfulness means a team can tolerate silence, especially amidst each other. The team uses it to think, process, reflect, and prepare for the next high-value add the team should give.
You do not have to sacrifice speed if you become more quiet and thoughtful. In fact, you will likely find that the exact opposite happens: with Quiet Thoughtfulness, you achieve your goals faster, more efficiently, and in a way that promotes a healthier culture.
We know that launching a new or transforming an existing organization isn't simple, but it can be easier with the right advisors and doers. If you have additional questions about this topic or how it can impact your business, contact us. Let's see what we can do for you.
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