If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut
A prominent 20th century scientist weighs in on the human condition, acknowledging both work and play in an equation. The added bonus of knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut is the twist that makes this “people equation” so clever. Call it “The Z Factor”— the art of zipping one’s lip. Knowing when to stay silent and when to speak up is especially important for leaders to master, so let’s take a look at this important emotional intelligence skill.
Leadership and emotional control – when not to engage
First of all, keeping your mouth shut can be really difficult when emotions (yours or others’) are running high. In these cases, zipping one’s lips is far easier said than done. How many times have you been tempted to lash out with a scathing retort to a colleague’s thoughtless comment? But it’s imperative that you take the high road, which requires emotional control. You’re not helping the situation by adding verbal “fuel” to the fire, and you risk damaging relationships (and possibly your leadership reputation) by lashing out.
It’s best not to engage when:
- Tempers are running hot
- You’re hangry
- Customers are present
- The little voice inside your head is warning, “You’ll regret this tomorrow.”
- You lack important information
Should I speak up? 4 questions to help you decide
What if you’re not especially emotional, but you still wonder if you should speak up? Maybe it’s not an emotional outburst that you’re stifling, but rather you’ve witnessed a breach in work etiquette or a show of poor judgment. When these dilemmas present themselves, you’re faced with an internal dialog of “should I say something or not?” Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if (or perhaps when) you should speak up:
What’s my intention in speaking up? Leaders must be clear about their intent. Is the goal to resolve a problem, improve a situation, or guide the team in the right direction? If speaking up doesn’t contribute positively, it may be prudent to remain silent. Perhaps you intend to “help” but it’s possible that speaking up will only make matters worse. If you aren’t in a position to fix or change what you’re addressing, it may not be helpful to broach the subject.
Is the timing right? While addressing issues promptly is often necessary, leaders should also assess the emotional state of their team and select a suitable location for discussions. Timing is key—sometimes it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, so that the details are fresh. However, you also need to consider the recipient’s frame of mind and your location. If it’s an emotionally charged situation, it’s best to allow for a cool-down period and a private place for conversation.
Is this my issue to own? Sometimes we insert ourselves where we have no business being. It can be difficult as a leader to know where the line between being a “good boss” and “it’s none of my business” lies. Ask yourself, “is this a leadership issue?” which may help you determine if your action is warranted.
What are the consequences? Think through the potential consequences, both positive and negative. How might this hurt the person? How might it help them? Sometimes the consequences may be severe, but in your heart you think it’s best to speak up. If you’ve thought through the issues, at least you’ll be prepared no matter what the outcome.
Awareness of the Z Factor is a key relational skill for leadership success. Moreover, it’s been shown to increase your health— allowing you to avoid the dreaded Foot-in-Mouth disease. So, next time you’re tempted to sound off, run through a mental checklist and be sure it’s in the best interest of all parties involved before you speak up.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com © Nikola Bilic
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The post The Leader’s Guide to Knowing When to Keep Your Mouth Shut appeared first on People Equation.