When the unexpected happens and you don’t know what to do, what is your first impulse? For some, it’s to move; to just do something. For others, it’s to freeze; to do nothing.
To Take Action, Or To Stay Silent?
Almost three years ago to this day, I was at a youth group event as a volunteer leader, which included my son, when I received the phone call that my father-in-law had died.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t know my father-in-law was going to die eventually, knowing he had been battling many serious health complications for more than a year. But the call from my wife still shocked me.
I didn’t know what to say to my wife on the phone. I found myself searching for the right words to say, but didn’t know what they were, so I just froze. I ended the conversation with my wife, not remembering what I said to her. Now I had to tell my son his grandfather was gone.
I knew how much my father-in-law meant to my son. Questions raced through my head:
- What do I say?
- What if I say it wrong?
- Will he be scarred for life?
- Will he hate me for it?
- Will I lose this majorly important follower in my life like I just lost my father-in-law?
In that moment, I just acted. I pulled him aside and told him. He reacted by crying out, “No!”
I will never forget that. In that half-second, true love was vividly on his mind; he knew that he would no longer be able to talk to or see his Grandfather, one of two people that my son thought really understood him. It hurt me deep inside to have to share that news with him.
Watch, Listen, and Be Present
In the next three days, I reached out to many trusted friends and family to better understand what to do; to seek counsel. I asked them how I could lead well in this situation. The best answer I received from many of them was to just watch and listen.
When they told me this, I thought, “Really? That’s all? Seriously?”
Some of you may think that watching and listening is easy, but I saw this as a tough challenge. Like many leaders, I start to solve problems, hurts, challenges, and situations after about the fifth word when people begin to share; when what they really need is someone to listen to them.
I have found that my instinct to solve a problem or challenge right away may not always be the best instinct to have. I have discovered this most in my marriage, but also in the workplace and in leading my children. Through challenging experiences like this one, I have come to recognize this area of importance, and it is still a struggle for me—one that I have to battle against every day.
One key component that I have learned is that you have to be present in order to watch and listen. This means both in mind and physical presence.
This isn’t always easy when there is a good football game on or when you have so much to do. In these times, you can either: one, build rapport with those you lead; or two, become a leader that they won’t respect, only following you only because of your position.
“A wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”
Will You Rise to The Challenge?
The team at Fired-Up has a challenge for you; to watch & listen and to be present.
The next time you or one of your people goes through a challenging time (although this is good to practice every day), make an effort to listen more and speak less. You will be amazed at how much you can influence by just being quiet and listening.
Be attentive and be close enough to be in the right place at the right time. We believe that if you do this and you are sure to gain deeper relationships with those that mean the most to you, and in turn, those relationships will grow your influence with those you lead and those that are observing your leadership.
To help you do this better, we’ve created a FREE workbook that will guide you through the process of leading well and, in return, transforming your workplace culture. Click here to download it now.
Paul is part of a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.