Leadership: 6 Reasons We Say Too Much

Early in the COVID-19 days, my wise wife, Karen, said this could really hurt our son’s business. Michael and his wife, Casey, perform wedding videography and photography.

Have you heard the trendy phrase “gig economy”? Well, Sun Prairie Films of Colorado couldn’t be more closely tied to the world of gigs. All revenue comes from events, group celebrations, and gatherings of lots of people.

I feared Karen was right, but I responded, “Probably, but let’s not say that to them now. It won’t help to predict doom and gloom when we don’t know.” Karen agreed.

Sadly, she was spot on—Sun Prairie Films revenue eventually shut off like a faucet.

Leadership Lesson Learned

Karen and I chose not to dump our fear-filled, negative thinking on the young Millers for a couple of reasons. At that time, doing so would’ve added no value. Also, more than 30 years ago, my mentor in the management training world taught this lesson: “Leadership sometimes means keeping your thoughts to yourself.”

At 62-years-young, I now know this to be true. ??

The QBQ! training program teaches that leadership isn’t about title, position, or tenure, but about how we think. Leaders discipline their thoughts … and their tongues. This calls for all leaders—managers, co-workers, friends, spouses, parents, siblings—to sometimes keep their mouths shut.

6 Reasons We Say Too Much

Here are 6 reasons why it’s tough to tame the tongue:

  1. Ego. When driven by pride, our strongest desire is for those around us to believe we’re smart—and right. Of course, being the smartest person in the room is not a productive/worthy goal. Leaders must eliminate this immature need.
  2. Passion. When a topic is “near and dear” to our hearts, we can get … intense. Due to this intensity, it’s hard to not say what we’re thinking. See any Social Media argument to observe this phenomenon. Excessive passion leads to excessive Facebook/Twitter wars.
  3. Unawareness. We don’t understand the immense power we possess when it comes to influencing others. However, wise managers, parents, older siblings, etc. grasp this. They understand the intrinsic power of even the most flippant statements.
  4. Verbosity. I’ve always known my verbal nature is a problem but didn’t know it began so young. In my 7th-grade yearbook from 1971, this is the theme: “To a great friend who talks too much!” and “The best talker in my class!” Yes, a lifelong problem causing me to sometimes regret what I say.
  5. Undisciplined. I’ve heard people who cuss a lot say, “I want to stop but can’t.” To me, it’s a matter of choosing to stop—and following through. We all make choices. Deciding to not use foul language and sticking with it is just a matter of discipline. Undisciplined folks say too much.
  6. Untrained. Many supervisors have never been taught this. No one has trained them to not be their staff’s buddy, to not align with their direct reports emotionally—and to cease speaking too freely to their staff. It’s just not taught in most training programs, yet it is learnable.

Why This Matters

Becoming a disciplined person—acting as an effective leader—matters because we don’t live in a bubble, we don’t work alone. The reality is, we do impact others. Saying whatever is on my mind whenever I want, depending on what I’m saying, can —

  • Damage relationships
  • Create fear in others
  • Destroy belief in institutions
  • Hurt people’s feelings
  • Lower team productivity
  • Inhibit learning/growth
  • Instigate negative thinking

Are any of these costs worth it just so we can keep talking and say what’s on our minds? Personally, I will now say this: I don’t believe so. ?

Are you a leader? If so, what’s your #1 takeaway from this lesson? Leave a comment sharing what you will now do differently!


8 Responses

  1. I’m not sure I agree with this one completely. There are times when we should be quiet… and there are times when we need to speak up. If the bus is about to run someone over, I think it best to speak up… LOUDLY! Now, in the situation, I’m more in the camp of talking about potential hazards to a family members business. Being able to warn them, and possibly prepare them with backup plan ideas might be a better course. As I recently heard in a Simon Sinek video, businesses need to learn to pivot and change their models when disruptions occur. Having someone warn you about the oncoming bus just might be enough incentive to get me thinking about pivoting earlier rather than later!!!

    1. Yep, life is full of judgments. As parents in mid-march 2020 EARLY in the CV-19 pandemic before anyone really knew anything, we deemed it wise to not dump our negative thoughts on two thirtysomethings. It wouldn’t have helped, not at that time.

      Yes, there are times to speak up but after 34 years of training managers, I find many managers don’t have the training to know when to say the right things that lift people and encourage them – so they frequently say the wrong thing.

      Thanks for sharing, Franc!

  2. There are times that I can be more disciplined and not say as much – 110%.

    Also, there are times as a leader that you have to own your mistakes so that your team will trust in the long – term. Being genuine is also an important trait.

  3. In the Bible James 3:1-12 speaks to the need to control our tongues, a very difficult matter. I continue to work on it and follow what I have told my sons, “Just because a thought runs through your mind doesn’t mean it has to run out your mouth.”

    I also understand some, like my wife, work through things by verbalizing them.

    We have discussed the need to be very careful to strive to do this with a mentor/advisor or supervisor rather than those you are leading. Even then you have to be very careful.

  4. Numbers 1 through 5 seem pretty straight forward, though I likely still need some practice to do them better.

    I’m not sure I understand all the following from #6: “No one has trained them to not be their staff’s buddy, to not align with their direct reports emotionally—and to cease speaking too freely to their staff.”

    I’m sure you have some details about the levels you are referring to. Regarding the ‘buddy’, I don’t want to be their enemy, I do want to be a friend so we can have clear open communication, thus there must be some level I’m missing.

    I think I understand not ‘aligning’ emotionally, but I do want to be empathetic and not ignore real impacts. I see this as a part of the first one.

    Finally, what are you referring to by ‘too freely’?

    Maybe I’m just overthinking.

    1. DE, thanks. Actually, managers who are skilled and professional do not become their people’s buddy or friend. Awfully hard to review people objectively – coach, counsel, and confront – when we’re TOO closely aligned with them. We can be friendly, but we’re not their friend, at least while they report to us.

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