Don't Shut Up
Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov,

What’s Leader Speak? Knowing When to Shut Up!

Early in my career I was a salesperson selling complex computer systems to healthcare clients. On a call with my manager, I was so intent on showing off how much I knew and telling the customer how much they needed our solution, I forgot to slow down and listen. My manager tactfully halted my “pitch” to point out that he was ready to talk about the implementation timeline.

This isn’t just a rookie move. We see this happen in boardrooms, executive strategy sessions, and with critically-important strategic partners. We’re experts, we’re leaders, and we feel the challenge of making bold moves and creating success. We’re driven for positive outcomes and to getting onto the next challenge as quickly as possible.

Leaders Listen

Driving to the answer you’ve formulated may not be the shortest path to success. You may be shocked at how much can be accomplished in helping others to lead themselves to innovative solutions, and it may happen much more quickly and effectively than you can imagine. This is a step beyond “win-win,” it takes us to “we’re all on the same side of the table.”

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to replyMost of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking…Never miss a good chance to shut up.” 

Bryant H. McGill, Author and Human Potential Thought Leader

You Talk Too Much

How many times do we talk too much?

As leaders, we strive to inspire our teams to a shared vision of success. We work on the win-win solution for a tricky challenge. We gather input from all stakeholders, anticipate all of the possible outcomes, prepare an amazing strategic plan and corresponding deck–and then we sell it. And sell it some more.

If we really admit it to ourselves, we go into sell mode with our co-workers and team members, with our significant others, with our children, and with our friends. For heaven’s sake, I heard someone arguing (selling his viewpoint) with a server at a restaurant the other day, about getting asparagus instead of potatoes with his steak. The only thing the server wanted to do was make sure that the diner knew all of his other options!

If You Must Speak, Make It a Great Question and then Listen

Try this next time you have an important, new idea or proposal to share with key stakeholders. Take a deep breath, ask some powerful questions, and listen. Listen with all of your senses. To the words spoken and not spoken. To body posture. To your audience’s interaction. To your own senses.

Are there heads nodding? Crossed arms? Confused faces? Silent signals passed across the boardroom? Throats being cleared over the Zoom conference line? Eyes rolled at the dinner table? What’s your gut telling you?

Take this opportunity to put your desire for a “win” aside and ask even more questions, with a clear and open mind and countenance. You’ll gather amazing information and at the same time telegraph that you truly care about their ideas about how to move forward.

The time to a solid plan may be much quicker than you think! Everyone will feel engaged and ready for success. It’s up to you. Your action’s a choice. Sell your heart out and hope for the best, or grab every chance you can to shut up and listen to the sound of success.


An Executive Leadership Coach is a powerful ally in creating amazing results. For more ideas on making bold changes to your Leadership for remarkable breakthrough results, email BreakAway Leadership Coaching founder, Karyn Grant at [email protected] or visit