Silence is Golden

Published on Oct 1st, 2010 by

Silence is Golden
In my observations of successful leaders I noticed that they never, ever gave offence to anyone. They where charismatic and tactful. This is very important to get results from people. Most of the time this means thinking before you react.

Here are some good examples:

  • talking with someone outside of a group if you have to tell them they did a bad job
  • waiting with email reactions, talk with people before answering a difficult mail (written words lose context and can’t be taken back)
  • reacting appropriately to personal attacks, usually by ignoring the attacker
  • steering discussions away from inflammatory subjects

Certain topics can be very sensitive for some people; this might not be obvious to you when you meet them. Someone may even secretly have a strong opinion about something and you might never know, even after working with them for years.

You always have to be careful around things like:

  • death
  • religion
  • politics
  • diseases
  • racial differences
  • sexual orientation
  • stereotypes
  • cursing

I’m not telling you to be a robot around colleagues or customer. This is all about avoiding to offend people.

Sometimes it’s easy to see when to watch out and sometimes it’s not, take for instance these very blunt examples…

  • easy to tell, someone carries a cross as a pendant: don’t tell jokes about the pope
  • hard to tell, someone’s husband passed away recently and the family is still mourning: no comparisons with death or loneliness
  • very hard to tell, someone’s had plastic surgery done a long time ago: no harsh judgement of Cher
  • white people who were adopted by gay Indians from a strong liberal family:… you get the point

You might even say something with the best intentions or talk about an opinion which isn’t even your own. It doesn’t matter, people can be very irrational at times.

Now, why is this so important to your projects?

When a project is going through a difficult phase these things tend to play up and before you know it, you could lose support from someone when everybody should be working together.

You need support or it’s going to cost you, this is especially true for key people.

As a project manager you work with a lot of very different people. You meet different clients and your teams change composition through time.

So stay sharp and don’t get burned.

Disclaimer: if you’re a Christian liberal gay Indian who likes Cher, that would be really cool; please leave a comment

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