“Enjoy the Silence” – What I have learned from the quiet ones.

We live in a society where being introvert – or ‘quiet’ – is often labelled as a limitation. After many years of working with teams, I have reached to the conclusion that this statement is so far from being true. What most people fail to acknowledge is that every team need their fair share of ‘quiet’ players. These are the ones that think and follow an introspection process before reacting. This virtue is so crucial in the planning part prior to executing. Quiet teachers that allow students to express and pay attention to their needs instead of following a standard ‘one size fits all’ script. These are the true ambassadors of the ‘do more and talk less’ principle so commonly found in over achievers. In most recent times, I have had the opportunity to learn from a few outstanding ‘quiet ones’.

Openness to adapt  

I started practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and fell in love with this martial art as an activity that perfectly can align with my personal continuous improvement plan.  The hard work, continuous practice until movements become natural, the being humble never stop learning and grateful enough to never stop helping the ones in need and so many other lessons learned that can be easily used in life. One of my instructors has a particular introvert personality, however every time he says something will hit right on the spot with what is needed. Is this a coincidence? I doubt it is. The fact that he hardly speaks give him more time to be aware of the progress of each student, the mistakes that everybody has to undergo until real learning is achieved and the right moment to step in and provide assistance in the right moment so the student feels supported. Recently I found myself really frustrated because when I felt that I was improving, the next day I will get beaten and felt that I knew nothing. It was then when he told us that learning never ended on this art since teammates who we beat now will be ready for our moves next time so we will need to constantly change our approach. We need to be open enough to adapt on time this dynamic environment, just like life.

Ausstrahlung

Within an operations team that I worked in there is a person who fits perfectly into the ‘quiet one’. This person’s job require high degree of attention to detail and excellent networking skills. These requirements fit perfectly with this personality, however she cannot afford staying in a silo and constant interaction with the rest of the team is needed. She rarely speaks out, but when she does she is rarely challenged. Anybody that has worked in shipping operations can tell you that we are anything but quiet. Then why this person represents such a valuable player in this loud environment? Over an informal conversation she mentioned the German word “Ausstrahlung” that means radiation, emanation, presence, emission, transmission, broadcast, aura, charisma or magnetism. So many meanings for one word! Then it hit me: good intentions, teamwork, support and kindness are shown by actions, not words.

Shut up and listen

I was recently appointed to lead a team overseas with far more experience in shipping operations than me. My main focus at the beginning was to improve processes within the team and show them how much value I brought to the team with my process improvement experience. I was rushing into driving change and forgot to pay attention to their experience and include what I learned from them into the new changes. It took me a lot of time, effort and few wise words from my quiet boss to realize that I needed to shut up and listen to their needs first in order to drive change within my team and get their buy in. Four simple words that can make our life a more enjoyable one.

So next time you have a quiet person on your team, dig deeper and you will find a hidden treasure that your team may have been already getting benefit from without you even noticing it. More important, acknowledge how important are quiet ones for this world and enjoy the silence, you might pick up the good vibes. Cheers!

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