Say Less, Say Last or Say Nothing

In strategy, investments, leadership and relationships what you don’t do can be just as important as what you do.

With investments, professionals spend their days researching to generate a lot of ideas but only put their capital in a few places.

In business, to continue growing a company, there’s a natural process of editing out a high proportion of ideas people have and selecting the few that matter most. Otherwise, it’s very easy to dilute the focus of the company.

The same is true in leadership. In order to continue to grow, effective leaders realize that they must become better at not saying and doing things. When you work close to the front lines you can offer more direction and spend time teaching and demonstrating good work. However, as you get closer to the executive level you need to do less teaching and master the art of asking challenging questions. Contrary to what you might see in TV and movies, the most effective CEOs and leaders don’t actually share a lot of opinions – or provide a lot of answers.

Their job is to support their teams and make themselves useless (See Chapter 10, Your Oxygen Mask First).

Highly effective leaders stop the natural desire to answer people’s questions or provide guidance and try to say very little. If they do speak, they speak last, to not influence the thinking of the group. These leaders want people to think for themselves, to come with recommended solutions. They ask their teams deep, challenging questions to truly understand the issues. And they ensure that accountability sits on the shoulders of the best people on their team. (See Chapter 12, Your Oxygen Mask First, Stop Being Chief Problem Solver).

At their core, these leaders are like many parents. They understand that their role is to raise strong, independent adults who don’t need much from them, yet produce outstanding results.

Our job is to do our best not to stand in the way of their growth. Our role is to say less, say last or say nothing.

The Challenge

  • Where do you need to be less helpful so that your people can grow and take more responsibility?
  • Where can you say less, say last or say nothing?