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There are times when silence is golden, but certainly not when it comes to managing a team and feedback is necessary. In those cases, silence can hurt.

The New Yorker ran a short article recently that offered a classic demonstration of what happens when no one will directly address a problem. The story detailed a recording session featuring a world-class group of musicians lead by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Sitting in that day was a world-renowned pianist, Cecile Licad.

Despite the glittering resumes of the musicians in the room, a problem crept up during one difficult piece. At a critical point, Licad’s tempo on the piano picked up. The other musicians tried (as they usually do) to match her pace, but the complexity of the piece made it too difficult.

The solution should have been simple. Someone needed to explain the problem to Licad, only no one would. Instead they talked around the problem, trying one method after another to slow her down at that critical passage. The indirect approach never worked, so the group labored through a series of unusable takes until they finally found one that was passable.

Everyone had reasons for not talking with Licad, from her sterling reputation to a desire to help her fit in with a new group. Yet no one ever thought of being straight with her, which would have led to a more enjoyable and successful experience. (And certainly Licad is aware of the issue by now. After all it ran in the New Yorker and now on MorningNewBeat. She has to read one of them....)

It’s a stunning reminder that deference and respect are incredibly important, but within limits. Sometimes even a superstar can goof up and saying nothing means nothing gets fixed. And for many teams, one take is all they get, so the problem can result in failure.

And that’s the Wednesday morning Eye-Opener.

- Michael Sansolo
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