Sometimes we sit in meeting after meeting listening – or half listening – to people talk on and on actually saying nothing. I must admit I pay less and less attention during these things as nothing actually gets accomplished. It feels like I am the lonely bolt int his photo – the only one who doesn’t fit in the picture. 

I was in a recent class with people from other companies, and eventually the topic of meetings came up. It became very apparent that most companies have this same situation – too many meetings, too many people talking, not enough actual actions items being implemented. One guy said it was like listening to everyone drone on and one about the Emperor’s new clothes, when you are the only one who will admit he is naked. Everyone else goes along, no one wants to talk about the lonely bolt on the ground. So more meetings get scheduled. More one way conversations occur when people think they are ‘communicating’. More people silently multitask in order to pass the time. No one ever talks about how boring this is or how much of their time is wasted . It all goes unsaid to keep the peace. Being politically correct has become an epidemic silently killing the passion and productivity of the workforce. 

As the one who knows the Emperor is naked, or that you are the lonely bolt in the room…you have a choice to make. Be silent, be patient, or tell the truth. All three options have different consequences. Stay silent and you actually become part of the problem. Be patient and you may wait a long time before someone asks you for feedback in a safe place where you can share your thoughts without performing a CLM…career limiting move. Tell the truth and you may end up with more work, a bad reputation, frustration as you spoke and no one listened, or even worse you are heard and you are expected to make it all better. 

The good news is groups and teams need that lone bolt. They need this one person who is willing to voice a different opinion. It provides diversity of thought and may open ideas in others they didn’t know they had. Being teh bolt also means you can influence and move forward a group that has been stagnant for years. But being that bolt takes courage, wisdom, and the ability to speak without making people defensive. It is a skill and when done well can really change the culture of a team or group. Have teh courage to be the lone bolt – speak up, have courage, and give other people room to change beacuse of your thoughts. Some one has to go first.