You’re sitting with a group of people who trust you, who are capable, and who know that you want them to come up with a solution to a problem. And they really do want to please you.
So you ask them to come up with a solution, and you get nothing but the sound of rustling papers and shifting bodies.
Why aren’t they saying anything?
Your communication skills as a leader must extend beyond keeping the team informed and being clear about your requirements. The right words used at the right time can save many a situation, including where the team are suddenly shy and quiet.
Perfectionism and fear
When people want to please you, they sometimes get really excited and you can barely get a word in edgewise. At other times, though, if the pressure’s on, or if there are new people in the room, or if they think they really should know the answers, they say nothing.
They’re afraid of getting it wrong.
Asking people to come up with a solution can seem like a test. It can feel like there’s one right answer, and they need to come up with it. But no one wants to come up with the wrong answer and risk looking stupid. If they think they need to find the perfect solution straight up, but they don’t know what it is yet, you’ll get that silence.
From perfection to possibility
So if you want them to talk, you need to communicate your request differently. You no longer ask them what the solution to the problem is. You ask them what the solution to the problem could be. Using the word could takes the pressure off needing to get it right the first time. You move your people from a place of necessity to a place of possibility. In the place of possibility, there is no right or wrong and so exploration of options becomes acceptable, even desirable.
And they start to talk.
You could do that, couldn’t you?