Take the Temperature of the Room
Who’s there? What are they hoping to accomplish? What’s the overall mood, and what do you know about the relationships between the people you’re with? What about your own mood and motives? Your knowledge of the people and circumstances, your intuition in reading the room, and your emotional intelligence should help you understand what people need from you. Does the group need to you be clear and assertive? Does someone need compassion, respect, action, or a listening ear? Make an assessment and rise to the occasion so you can channel your strength in an appropriate direction. It’s important to recognize that your strength can, and probably will, change the temperature in the room. But it doesn’t have to happen by accident. So decide what kind of change you want to make.
Make a Quick Gift Assessment
As you notice each person present, consider their own gifts. Chances are, there’s a lot of potential around that table, and your gifts aren’t the only ones that matter. So make it part of your mission to see that every person has an opportunity to make an important contribution according to his or her gifts. This is an essential leadership responsibility. Exercise your own gift by making sure other gifts are recognized and expressed.
Encourage Other Voices
Like other people’s gifts, other voices are important. Some people need a lot of encouragement to make their voices heard, while others just need to know someone is listening. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your voice is more important, or that it should be louder, than anyone else’s. Rather than drown other voices, use your strength to draw them out. Ask quieter people to weigh in; try asking bashful people specific questions that will be easier to answer than a general request for input. Resist the temptation to jump in and fill quiet pauses. Some people will need them in order to process or frame their thoughts before speaking up.
Be Patient with Others
It’s tempting for leaders to fall in love with their own ideas, charge ahead, and leave others—and their objections—in the dust. Eventually such leaders find themselves burned out, lonely, or in trouble, running a one-person show without support or fighting fires they could have avoided by listening to objections from the beginning. Recognize that everyone is different, and those who think or communicate in ways that are slower, faster, quieter, or louder than you need space to be themselves. Let them do things their way. People with objections need to be heard, so listen. People with questions need thoughtful answers. And people who don’t seem to buy in to your brilliant vision might be right—exercising a little patience now could save you from a big mistake.