“Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” – Judge Roy Bean
If you don’t know Michael Keaton’s fine performance as Billy Blazowski, do yourself a favor: stop reading, watch Night Shift, and then we can talk. Specifically, look for a scene where “Billy Blaze” listens to a recorded message over & over (courtesy Henry Winkler) reminding him to “SHUT UP.” Now, that my friends, is good advice.
Especially in HR.
“Shut up?” Wait, aren’t we, as ‘protectors’ of the company, required to stand up and be heard? Yes… and no.
There’s a time to talk, no doubt, but not at the cost of listening. In HR, we have multiple opportunities to effectively shut up. For example:
- As a Coach. The most effective coaching technique you can utilize is allowing the client to create their own solution. That requires patience and silence. If you’re yakking, you’re advising, not coaching. It’s tougher than it sounds, but resist your need to offer solutions.
- As an Investigator. Awkward silence is your friend… those quiet lulls in between questions? Let the subject fill those gaps; that’s where the juicy information comes out. Shut up and let it happen.
- As an Interviewer. Savvy job candidates know how to get their interviewer talking…the more you talk, the less control you have in the interview. I used to crack up at the Sales Managers with whom I would co-interview – these are salespeople you are interviewing, quit letting them sell you! We had candidates walking out with account information, product information, POA. Shut up, man.
- In your Inner Circle. Admit it, one of the cool things (maybe the only “cool” thing) about being in Human Resources is access to privileged conversations, confidential information, and other various skeletons buried in the corporate closet. The urge to share this information can be almost irresistible…bury it. Put it in the vault, shut up already.
While we’re on the subject, I’m told (a lot) that this same advice can be equally beneficial to married men. I’m still compiling data, more on that later.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.