Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone speaks over each other and the conversation goes haywire within minutes? As a leader, deciding when it’s the right time to speak up in those situations can be challenging. How do you get them to listen to you? When do you say something to get the conversation back on track? Or better yet, what do you say?
Surprisingly, speaking last can be a powerful strategy for asserting your leadership. As in the words of Simon Sinek, “the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.”
Here are five surprising reasons why speaking last can lead to making a greater impact on your leadership:
Reason 1: Speaking last affords the leader cognitive room to include all voices.
Reserve your comments until the end to ensure you are heard, and your opinion is more likely to be considered. Moreover, invite others to be heard to demonstrate inclusiveness. Your people will feel seen and valued!
Reason 2: Leaders can better evaluate ideas — their own and others.
Before proposing a solution, did you examine all the available information? Think of this like a 1000-piece puzzle. You can’t reap the reward of a completed project until you have all the details. Well, at least 99% of them. If one piece of the puzzle is missing, it’s incomplete. And, therefore, cannot be solved. Consider all the ideas you hear in the room as small puzzle pieces that reveal the big picture.
Reason 3: The leader can offer an objective viewpoint.
Taking time to listen first can help you gain the trust and respect of others. Modeling respect by holding back your opinion to allow others the space to share theirs creates a ripple effect, helping to form a burgeoning workplace culture that prioritizes psychological safety.
Reason 4: Leaders can provide a sense of closure.
Silence can offer a sense of closure on a topic — granting permission to move ahead. When you give others the floor to get their thoughts out, you reduce the chance of jumping to conclusions. We should wait until the end of a dialogue to summarize and reflect on what was said.
Last-minute strategies for speaking last in meetings:
- Secretly count to ten before uttering a word.
- Take five slow deep breaths, then speak up.
- Announce to the group that you want to allow everyone to speak before you say your piece.
- If you can’t help yourself and need to say something, ask a clarifying question or ask someone to elaborate on a point made.
Being the last to speak can significantly impact your leadership and your relationships. When you finally voice your ideas, you can set the agenda, clarify your thoughts, give others feedback and demonstrate intentional leadership.
So, the next time you have an opportunity to insert your opinion, instead of diving right in:
Wait. Listen. Then speak.
Kima Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and subject matter expert on Counseling and Advocacy programs in her role at Navy Fleet & Family Support Center, Everett, Washington. Her government career spans more than 15 years, starting in the Navy. Kima completed her Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Washington and has held positions with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) and the Army. Kima’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Quarter Award for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from Graduate School, USA. You can connect with Kima on LinkedIn.
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