“Silence is golden
But my eyes still see.
Silence is golden, golden;
But my eyes still see”
Lovely song and sentiment…but not much good in business. In fact, if you are in any type of leadership role, silence is certainly not golden. It’s much more likely to be deadly..or as the lyrics to another (rather different genre) song, by Napalm Death, go “Silence is Deafening.”
What does Silence Say?
Let’s think about this a bit more. If you as the leader are “silent”, what are you actually saying to your followers? Certainly not nothing. In the absence of words, they will be interpreting your silence in all sorts of ways – almost all deafening in their negative interpretations;
- She doesn’t care
- He hasn’t got a clue
- She isn’t interested
- He hates me
to name but four, all of which I’ve personally experienced when working for the ‘silent’ boss.
And if you’ve created a climate/culture in which your followers don’t feel comfortable in speaking up, then what does that mean?
You won’t get to hear about problems, opportunities, threats. You won’t get to discuss ideas, concepts and initiatives. You won’t get to know when, like the proverbial emperor, you are walking around naked!
And Talk is Cheap
Of course, you may be concerned that, as the song lyrics go on to say;
“Talkin’ is cheap, people follow like sheep
Even though there is nowhere to go.
How could she tell? He deceived her so well.
Pity she’ll be the last one to know.”
And there is some sense in that as well, because we all know that what really counts are actions rather than words.
But, better to have the opportunity to talk and then act, rather than stay silent and act without first talking. That smacks of authoritarian management…and surely we know enough to know that it really doesn’t work well…
p.p.s Photo credit Hartwig HKD