Yes, someone needs to eventually make a decision. But, if you want to fully engage the people on your team, you have to routinely ask the magic question: “What do you think?”
People want to contribute to the conversation. They want to be part of the big decisions. Don’t worry if you don’t take their advice every time. That’s not their expectation either. They just want to know that their voice has been heard.
People are different.
There are certainly some folks that appreciate a more directive style of leadership. “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll go get it done.” Those people will value your decisiveness.
Leaders, though, want to be a part of the big picture conversations. They want to shape the strategy. For them to be fulfilled, they need to contribute to the process and the decisions about next steps.
Leaders are different too. Some leaders will volunteer their voice. They’ll pipe in. They won’t hold back. They talk first, and process as they verbalize their thoughts.
Others are silently processing the current situation. They’re considering options. They’re analyzing pros and cons. They’re considering how different alternatives will impact different people. Until you ask them, though, they’ll remain silent.
Don’t misinterpret their silence.
They’re fully engaged. They’re just waiting for permission to contribute. And, believe me, you want their contribution. When they talk, they’ve already analyzed the situation in their mind and will offer valuable insights for you to consider.
How do you mine those rich contributions? You simply pause to ask the question, “What do you think?”
Yes, it’s possible someone is silent in a conversation because they’re completely disengaged. If that’s the case, they don’t need to be in future conversations. That’s the rare exception.
Most times, silence is an indication that someone is processing internally. It’s your responsibility as the leader to draw that out.
When it comes to leadership, one size doesn’t fit all. The answer is probably already in the room.
You just need to ask.