“Well actually that would not cause the comm radio to fail…” chimed in someone from the peanut gallery while I was briefing the colonel on what we were planning to do to fix an airplane. This was great information and what he said was very true; however, it did not add value to what we were talking about and was off point. What he did accomplish was confusing the table and we all lost several hours explaining and pushing the facts we had to show this was a solid plan.

There are so many people who want to show they are right. They can’t hold it in. I know, I am one of these people at the core. I was the nerdy little kid who knew almost every answer and the wise-mouth teen who enjoyed proving annoying people wrong. I was fortunate enough to learn how to channel this “gift” before it became a real problem and below are three questions I ask myself to control this urge.

“Is this adding value to the conversation?” is the question I ask myself all the time before I speak up in meetings. If I am speaking to simply point out an error that is not hurting anything, I hold it in. Think of those who feel the need to constantly correct someone’s grammar. Unless they are grading me for college credit, they are wasting their time. Stopping me mid-sentence to tell me I used the wrong word, but you still knew what I meant, does nothing. It kills the train of consciousness and destroys creativity and shuts the other person down.

“Am I moving the conversation forward?” When you want to say something just to correct another, you show that you know what you’re talking about and nothing else. I personally want experts around me and seek advice from those who are experts. But we need to be the person who is adding to the conversation with our expertise and not backtracking on a fact-checking expedition.

“Am I speaking up for the right reasons?” This is was my loophole. When I became a SNCO, I was charged with caring for my team and all resources in my AOR. I “needed” to ensure everyone was on the right page or roughly translated: my page. It did not take long to learn I was hurting my team more than helping them. Now, I have the responsibility to speak up when it is needed, but I have to ensure it is ties into the first two questions above. Just as a leader, they are now: Is this adding value to my team? and Is this moving my team forward?

It really saddens me to see those who are extremely smart and talented become tuned out because they are annoying the masses. Share what you know, just do it wisely.


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