I Didn’t Have to Say a Word

man with finger on lip asking for silence

In came the invitation to an emergency meeting.  A prideful thought emerged that I was only being invited so that I could “make a decision.”  Isn’t that what leaders do after all?

The situation was that the customer had called with an emergency. In short, they needed parts by Monday morning because of a production change on their end. They were desperate, so it was up to us to determine if we could juggle the competing demands of other customers, and figure out a plan of action to appease everyone?

The meeting was led by an up-and-comping sales person on our team.  He had not only called the meeting, but also had assembled the appropriate team-members to address this emergency head-on. He immediately put the production schedule, and upcoming orders, onto the screen in the conference room, and took the lead in discussing the potential scenarios. The team followed his lead and discussed the implications of the potential changes to the schedule, making double sure that no customer would be impacted.  The plant manager willingly bought into making the change, but asked for help with personnel. So, our young sales person asked for help on their behalf.  The room agreed, and our Director of Operations pledged to use the available resources necessary.  Everything was coming together, and by 1:14 p.m. a plan had emerged.

It had been 14 minutes, and I had not said a single word.

While this story may be a flattering one for Hoffer Plastics, I don’t tell it to make us look good (and I can tell plenty of war stories that are not nearly as pretty or flattering.  We make mistakes, too!)

I tell this story because of what I am about to confess:

I may not have spoken a word, but I wanted to.

I wanted people to know that I had input.

I wanted people to know that my voice mattered.

Heck, that my position mattered.

Of course, I don’t vocalize these internal struggles.  But, I am confessing they’re present. I am confessing the insecurity that often lies within.

In fact, not speaking made me wonder what people thought of me.  Did they think I was disengaged, or an ineffective leader?  (These questions made me realize that I care more about what people think of me than I often think I do. Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me of that the other night…You’re right, unfortunately).

The irony is that not saying a word is exactly what leadership is about.

In fact, leaders are supposed to lead in a way that empowers others to step up and take charge…

Moreover, leaders are to become replaceable.

Being replaceable, however, is never soothing to the ego.

“You’re not as important as you thought you are,” is what goes through one’s head in such scenarios.

Isn’t it strange that one of the ways of becoming more important to an organization is by becoming less important in certain regards?

In the scenario above, our young sales person had taken the lead.

I didn’t say a word because I followed.

Setting my pride and insecurity aside, I have to say that it was beautiful to see the team, including myself, following this person’s lead.

We reached a better result because of it.