Great Leaders Know Their Mics Are Always On

microphoneOne of the greatest leadership and management lessons I ever learned was to know when to shut up.

That is no easy feat.

To stop talking is hard enough – but to know when to stop talking, that is a whole new ballgame.

The best time to stop talking is just before you are about to say something negative. Keep in mind the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

This sounds simple enough, but how do you stop that mind/mouth connection from firing at all pistons?

Act as though you are wearing a microphone that is always on and broadcasting to everyone.

I heard a speaker tell a story the other day that was a great aha moment. She was talking about walking down the corridors with her assistant on the way to a presentation where she was the featured speaker.

Right before she got to the room her daughter called her cell phone and told her, “Mom, your mic is on – we can hear everything you are saying!”

What would you say before and after team or individual meetings if you were wearing a live mic?

I have yet to meet a leader or manager who has not had to have a dreaded meeting. These could range from meeting with an employee to give an unfavorable performance review to meeting with a higher up to tell them that a project is not going as well as planned.

They might be able to pull off a positive spin in the meeting, but perhaps before or after they let out an exasperated sigh and thank some higher power that the meeting is over. What if the employee or the boss heard those comments?

What about joking with team members? Oh sure, you all know that the comments are not serious and you are all just letting off a little steam. Harmless, flippant comments not meant in seriousness or malice. Yet, what if you were wearing a live mic streaming to the people involved in whatever it is you are talking about? Or live streaming to your clients. Would they think it was harmless?

As a leader, you are held in a different light; to a different set of standards. All the positive encouragement in the world can be torn down in a single moment by one wayward comment. Words are powerful: they can inspire or destroy.

Your mic is always on.

Office walls are thin, cubicles are not sound proof and voices carry in open environments outside the office. Your audience extends beyond your visual, people who overhear you may be connected in some way right back to the person or event that you are discussing.

Your mic is always on.

Walk around for a day with the thought of wearing a live mic and you might just be surprised at how much you say in your “out loud” voice.

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