“I should have spoken up,” Gil said as he took another bite of his burger. He and his wife, Pat, loved going out to their favorite burger joint on Wednesday nights for their two-for-one hamburger specials. Gil told Pat how he had sat through a three-hour meeting where his work team wrestled through a nasty problem. Gil had come up with an idea an hour into the meeting but never spoke up. Someone else came up with the same idea two hours later, which was supported not only by Gil’s boss but the other team members.
“This isn’t the first time,” Pat said. She and Gil had been married for ten years and she knew him inside and out. She not only knew his strengths, but also his weaknesses.
“I know, I just don’t like to monopolize a meeting,” Gil said.
“I think you’ve got a long way to go before that happens,” Pat said as she popped a French fry in her mouth.
“What do you mean?”
“Gil, you’re one of the smartest men I know. When you do speak up, you typically say something very profound and thoughtful. The issue isn’t speaking up too much, it’s speaking up too little.”
Gil sat there for a moment, thinking about what Pat just said. Pat wiped her mouth with her napkin and continued.
“I went to a class today about something called a wisdom steward. In the class the instructor talked about six different personas; one of them was a wisdom hesitator. As soon as the instructor described the hesitator persona, I thought of you.”
“A wisdom hesitator?”
“That’s right. Now how about we split a tiramisu?”
“Um, sure thing,” Gil said. The server came to the table.
“What’s a wisdom hesitator?” Gil thought to himself as Pat ordered their dessert.
To understand a wisdom hesitator, we need to first understand a wisdom steward. A wisdom steward is balanced in how they seek and share wisdom. They humbly and genuinely seek wisdom to help make sensible decisions. At the same time, a wisdom steward transparently and candidly shares wisdom with others to help them make sensible decisions. The seeker and sharer roles are equally respected and practiced by the wisdom steward with the goal of embracing success for both themselves and others.
Now, on to the wisdom hesitator. The wisdom hesitator may be concerned with success, but he is afraid to express himself out of fear of what others may think about him and his ideas. In team meetings, the hesitator is usually the one who remains quiet and needs to be specifically asked for his input. My experience with hesitators, though, is that they can be incredibly perceptive and contribute valuable perspective to a discussion. I’ve been involved in many meetings where the hesitator, after being prompted, provided a point of view that wasn’t previously expressed and changed the trajectory of a conversation. Typically, it takes a leader who is sensitive to hesitators and draws them into the discussion. Unfortunately, many great ideas never see light of day because the hesitator isn’t willing to express his point of view. When a hesitator doesn’t share his wisdom and something bad happens as a result, everyone loses.
Are you a wisdom hesitator? Ask yourself these questions:
Wisdom hesitators can genuinely seek wisdom but need to feel it’s a safe environment before sharing. If this is you, take small steps to more deliberately share wisdom and become a wisdom steward. It will likely be uncomfortable at first, but your ideas deserve to be heard and can make a difference.
Want to see more? Check out Behind Gold Doors-Five Easy Steps to Become a Wisdom Steward.
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