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Silence at Work

As I write this I can hear the wind blowing outside the little summerhouse I have rented for the week, the fridge has also started making some noise and yet, it is quiet…it feels as if I can hear the silence underneath those sounds. Last night coming back to the cottage there was no wind, just a few birds, screeching quite loudly, piercing a blanket of silence. I open up the window when I sleep here, sometimes there is the sound of wind, rain, birds or horses, and mostly I’m taken by the silence.

That silence is one of the things I love about Iceland, it feels like a thick blanket enveloping me, slowing life down, making me more aware of all that is. It is almost as if the silence invites me into a meditative space. The silence is also confronting, there is little to distract, to stop me from looking at what is going on right now, in me. In that way silence creates space for reflection.

So, one could say I like silence . I value its perspective. That’s one of the reasons I bring my groups to Iceland for the silent language of leadership (a bird meanwhile chirps outside and the wind has gotten louder).

And I know that when I have paid attention in organisations, there is silence too, and much of what we decide and agree happens in silence. We tend to talk about the words, and the real clues, in my mind, are in what happens in silence.

Silence allows us to pay attention to our whole being, to realise that we are more than our mouth and the words that come out. And I have found this important not because we don’t do this normally, but because we do it all the time and we do it unconsciously.

When I come back from Iceland I tend to notice that I am more aware both of the silence around me – which is present, even underneath the noise of the busiest places, and the movement within me and others. I find it easier to pay attention to what happens beyond the words we speak. Things that might seem mysterious when I only use my ears to listen become clearer when I use my whole self.

When I started the silent language of leadership programme, I had a hypothesis that most of our leading is done in silence. I thought that the horses would be wonderful guides to help participants explore what they do beyond their words. Not because they need to learn how to do it, but because they may not know how they do it already. I often read that we need to learn how to be with silence, in my experience we just need to discover that we know how to be with silence already, that we have always worked in silence – only often we use words to mask that silence. Our words are like the wind and the birds in the sound of Iceland, what we hear if we don’t pay attention to the silence underneath.

This is nr 10 in a series of 13 about my insights from 2013 which i took into 2014 ... These have been published on my earlier website and I am reposting them here because they still feel relevant.

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