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The Boardroom of Silence

Organizational Health

A friend of mine who is an author and speaker, Matthew Kelly, often refers to something he calls “the classroom of silence.” Essentially, he is making the case for how much people learn and grow when they have the discipline to be still, quiet and solitary. Saints and scholars throughout history have attested to this, though it has become harder and rarer than ever in this culture of constant access to information, entertainment and noise.

It is no surprise that this same principle of silence is as important, and lacking, in organizations. Leaders have more access to information, distractions, ideas and noise than ever in history, which makes silence as precious as it has ever been.

The cost of this for leaders and their organizations is very real. We often make poorer decisions because we fail to ponder and reflect, and we find that peace of mind and heart escapes us. So, what are we to do?

I think it all comes down to discipline. A few years ago, I heard a story about a general manager of a professional sports team who attests to the importance of discipline around silence. When people who worked for this particular team would walk by this guy’s office and look inside they would often see him sitting at an empty desk staring at the walls of his office. No computer. No papers. No video screen. Nothing. Sitting. Staring. Thinking.

What you should know is that this general manager is considered one of the best in his sport, if not in all of sports. He is not particularly famous, probably because a man who is willing to stare at a wall in silence, thinking, pondering and reflecting has come to realize that fame is not ultimately worth cherishing. But silence in the pursuit of excellence certainly is.