This blog post is for the Silent Knights out there: the ones who have so much to share but choose to keep it all to themselves.
I accepted an invitation to join a leadership circle a while back and now on a regular basis, I find myself engaging in thought provoking conversations with a select group of respected leaders from various walks of life. I love it, it challenges my thinking and pushes me to delve deeper into areas I may previously have left unnoticed.
Today’s leadership session started like any other, but after a short while, I decided to try a little human experiment. Having spent years in the corporate world, I recall a large part of my career where I attended various meetings and was a part of many forums. However I often sat through an entire meeting without saying a word. This was not for the fact that I had nothing to say, nor that I had no thoughts, it was just that I preferred to listen, analyse, contemplate and reflect, all within my own headspace. And by the time I was ready to share, the meeting was probably over.
Now, after tons of conscious effort to change this behaviour, I’m glad to report that it’s a very different picture. But there are so many people out there, walking in my old shoes, carrying around their invaluable thoughts and leaving with their knowledge intact for yet another day. Not only does this leave you poorer, but it leaves them feeling frustrated and questioning their value to you and other people.
Today I decided to step back into an old pair of shoes to see whether, given the audience, the outcomes would be any different. Back in the day, many of the people in those meetings were leaders-in-training rather than leadership experts. They may not have realised their responsibility to engage me in a manner that encouraged me to share. But today, as I sat amongst leadership pros, in complete silence, what do you think followed….?
What followed was a robust conversation which occurred around me. Not with me, not including me, but around me. Very similar to all of those meetings I attended as a ‘Silent Knight’ where I was more an observer than a participant.
This blog is dedicated to all of the Silent Knights out there. The people who have gems to share but who may need a helping hand to get talking.
That helping hand comes from other people. The confident, extrovert, talkative, free-sharing leaders in the room who are there to help. But many of these leaders have 3 problems.
- Firstly, they don’t know they should help. Let’s just get that out of the way, I’m here to tell you, you should.
- Secondly, they feel they are saving the Silent Knight by not shining a light on them. No you’re not, let’s move on….
- And lastly, they don’t know how to help. And for that, I present The Five Simple Steps To Being More Inclusive In Conversation. This will empower you to help the Silent Knight to get their shine on!
The Five Simple Steps To Being More Inclusive In Conversation
- What’s in it for me? If you can answer this question, then you’re well on your way to being more inclusive. If you’re the kind of person that cares for others, then care enough to invite them to share. If you want to stretch your mind, then learn from them, invite them to share. If you like to be the Hero, great, rescue the Silent Knight by inviting them to share. Find your WIIFM and then move on to step 2.
- Ask a question – if you’re wondering how to include the Silent Knight in the conversation, all you need to do is ask them a question. Example “What do you think about that?”, “You look like you’ve got something to add. Would you like to share?”, “I know this is right up your alley, what are your thoughts?”, etc, etc, etc.
- Acknowledge the knowledge – no, you don’t have to say thank you. Acknowledging a contribution means giving thought to what was said. You could paraphrase and repeat to see if you understood the point. You could take the point and verbalise how it impacts the discussion on the table. You could even ask another question. Just don’t listen for the sake of hearing and then promptly move on to the next voice in the room.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 if time permits or with any other Silent Knights in the room.
- Well done! After the meeting, take a minute or 2 to reflect on the impact you’ve had in the Silent Knight’s life. Pat yourself on the back for taking the time to respect and acknowledge the knowledge in the room, and the other person in the process. I assure you, the Silent Knight is grateful whether they realise it or not. And as for you, you have grown into a better leader whether you realise it or not.
I believe I can learn something from anyone I meet. Often this is why I listen more than I speak. I love to absorb, listen and grow. And listening more than I speak is fine, as long as I remind myself to speak enough so the other person can absorb, learn, grow and walk away richer for having engaged with me. Silent Knights, it’s time to get your shine on!
PS: This post is written with thanks to the phenomenal leadership circle that created the opportunity for these insights to be reached and shared.
About the Author:
Chartered Accountant (SA), certified brain-based coach, life-long learner and corporate veteran with 16 years+ field experience in a global ‘Big 4’ Audit firm, Usha Maharaj, is a woman on a mission to bring more happiness into your life through her moto “Reject Average. Strive for Excellence.” Usha uses her wealth of knowledge to help you take on any professional challenge.