Oops, I Was Thinking Out Loud…

2013-08-11 iStock_000025261076XS2mallHow often have we said this to ourselves and discovered unintended consequences. As leaders we know that others are always watching what we do and listening and reacting to what we say. And, when we are with the folks in the office, in the factory or in the field, most of us are conscious of what we say and how we show up.

I wonder though, if we have this same awareness as leaders when we are with our leadership team. Or for that matter, when as members of the leadership team we are with our bosses and our colleagues. You may be thinking (silently?) so, are you saying I want to be aware of what I am saying all the time? Yikes!!

My sense is the answer is yes. When we think out loud, sometimes we create expectations, alarm or even actions that we did not intend. Recently, one of my clients shared this story: “I was sitting in my office with my VP of Operations and I was thinking out loud, wondering what we needed to do next to get to the growth goals I have. I was going on and on about my frustrations and concerns. Next day, he came back into my office and asked me if I was planning to sell the company. He apparently had gone home and thought about what I had said all night”.

I find that if I have the presence to simply say, “May I think out loud for a moment?” or “Can I just vent for a moment?”, that frames the conversation. Sometimes this pausing reminds me that it is best to simply ‘zip it’.

What has been your experience?

Elisa K. Spain