Weekender: Ted Melfi on the Need to Stop Talking

theodore-melfiWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a blip of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a blip? Because it’s the weekend!

Ever find yourself being too involved? It is common for leaders to justify their leaderly role through instructions, lectures, and ideas. Some are necessary; others are a prolonged filibuster that help you feel important but squashes needed participation. Next time you feel this urge, maybe consider the advice of Ted Melfi, writer and director of the hit movie St. Vincent.

At one point, I’m sitting there and I had a scene with Bill Murray, Melissa McCartney, Naomi Watts, everyone, and you look at this and you go, ‘I have no idea what I can even say to anyone.’ So the best thing to do is to not pretend you have something to say, right? The worst thing is to go up and say, ‘Listen to this, here’s what the scene’s about.’ And Bill would look at you if you said that and say, ‘I read the scene. I know what the f–king scene’s about.’ So if you aren’t having something to be helpful with, what’s the point? You have the best actors in the world, shut up.

Don’t feel the need to talk just because you have the power to make others pay attention. If you have the right people on your team, display your power by sitting back and letting them voice their opinions. Speak up if the conversation goes off course, you have some information the team needs, or if there’s a lack of needed dissent, but avoid making yourself the center of attention.

In the end, your ability to facilitate the conversation (versus owning the conversation), will increase your influence, enhance the problem solving skills of those on your team, and generate more buy-in. You may feel withdrawal from the lack of a spotlight, but the results will make up for it.