A very wise colonel once gave me advice about knowing when to talk and when to keep quiet. He said, Never pass up the opportunity to keep your mouth shut. It’s good advice that’s harder to follow than you might think!
Leaders are generally talkers. We talk because we need to communicate our ideas, to motivate our team, to build consensus among peers, etc. But talking also is a risk. The more words that come out is sometimes a compromise with strategic thinking. To make the risk greater, the higher up in the organization a least is, the more his/her words are parsed by everyone. Just think about how CEOs, military commanders, head football coaches, and politicians every utterance is dissected and expounded upon by professional and amateur pundits alike.
That’s why leaders, particularly senior leaders, need to be very deliberate about what they say in public (and for that matter, in private). Not every email deserves a response, and not every conversation needs comment. A savvy leader know when to weigh in, and when to keep quiet.
Over at Inc.com, Bill Murphy Jr offers some advice on when not to speak. Great tips, and you’ll want to read the whole thing.
The bottom line is that while leaders need to communicate often, it’s also important to remember that words need to be spent carefully.