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If you actually want input……

Brian Willis


If you are in a formal leadership position and having a meeting with people you have the privilege to lead, and you ask for everyone’s input on an idea, then you should generally be the last one to speak.

If you speak first and share what you think, the impression is that you have already made up your mind and you are simply going through the motions in asking for input. As a result most people will not offer differing ideas or opinions, as they do not want to appear to be challenging or trying to embarrass the boss.

It is not enough just to wait to talk. You have to actually be present and attentive and listen to what each member of the team is saying. It is ok to ask clarifying questions to dig a little deeper on ideas, just be aware of how you ask the question so it is clear you are interested in hearing more, and not criticizing or judging the idea.  Also be aware of your body language and facial expressions while people are presenting ideas. You can shut down input with your body language just as easily as with your words.

If you wait until everyone else has already spoken there may not be a need for you to offer you thoughts and ideas as the team may have already come up with the best plan. Your input may simply to offer your support and approval, ask what they need from you and then guide the team to identify and commit to the action steps necessary to move forward and establish an agreed upon team plan for accountability.

If you do not want input, then do not ask for it. If you are going to ask for it, be sincere and be interested in people’s input.

One exception to the “speak last” rule might be if you are looking for input on your blind spots and what you might be missing. In that case you can lay out your thought process and ask for feedback on what you are missing and what the weak points, vulnerabilities and blind spots are with your plan. This however, will only work if you have created trust with your team and have created a culture where people feel safe to speak openly and honestly. Without that culture you will get little or no useful feedback.

Knowing when and how to speak, and when and how to listen is critical to be an effective leader.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop can help you on your leadership journey.

Brian Willis