The countdown is on. You are trying to choose the perfect gift, consider each of your teams' preferences, want to appear thoughtful and generous, yet there are so many new wearables to choose from.

Well I have good news for you: You need to stop, because you are looking in all the wrong places. The greatest gift you can give is actually free--yet priceless.

I used to have someone on my team who would regularly say, "Shush!" to her peers and executives. While her tone may have bristled a few, her intent was clear. She needed silence to think, reflect, or just to get a word in between many energetic and boisterous leaders. I am not suggesting you go and tell your team or boss to shush, but you can give your team the perfect gift of silence.

In this noisy world of endless tweets, likes, shares, pins, and posts, leaders I work with tell me they are overwhelmed and don't prioritize time to think, reflect, and focus on the future. For that you need silence. Achieving silence may seem like an impossible task, but I assure you, it isn't. Here are five ways you can give the gift of silence to your team.

Five Ways to Give the Gift of Silence

1. Role model

Book silence sessions in your own calendar and protect them ruthlessly from cancellation. Give yourself the gift of weekly silence sessions during your regular working hours. Carve out a new routine, stick to it, and tell others why it is valuable for you.

2. Schedule a team meeting, then cancel it.

Make it three hours, at the start of the day. Twelve hours before the meeting, cancel it with this message to your team: "I am giving you this gift of three hours. Use it wisely to think, reflect, and plan. If this isn't your ideal thinking time, go walk your dog, do some personal chores, and schedule your own silence session later this week at your perfect thinking time."

3. Create silence sessions in meetings.

Who is the first to speak in your team meetings? If it is always you, then you are missing out on hearing what your team really thinks. If it is always one or two particular people, then they are unfairly dominating decisions, strategy, and opinions. At Amazon the first 15 minutes of every meeting is dedicated to reading. I witnessed it in action when I was part of the Fashion Leadership Team, even when Jeff Bezos was in the room. Narrative documents are prepared in advance and distributed for everyone to read, in silence. If people need more time to read, they are given it. Everyone compiles their thoughts and reactions, in silence. Then the meeting owner will ask for comments, page by page, on the document. This process gives everyone an equal voice and accounts for different styles of absorbing and processing information. It also prevents attendees from echoing the opinion of whoever talks the loudest, which can happen when a leader dominates a decision or debate.

4. Drive quietly.

Instead of queuing up two podcasts or listening to NPR during your next commute, drive in silence. While music can be relaxing, silence can give your brain permission to wander wherever it wants to rather than being forced to follow a strict path, subject to your own personal satellite navigation system. Try switching off all of the information, music, and distractions on your next drive and let your mind wander in peace. See where the silence takes you.

5. Ask permission to think for a moment.

I used to work with a leader who would regularly say, "Let's take a 10-minute break" right at a crucial point in his executive team meeting. It was usually when a decision was about to be made about an acquisition, or we were just reaching a conclusion on investing in a new initiative. When I asked him why, he told me it was because he needed silence and time to think because the heat-of-the-moment was sometimes too overwhelming. During the break he would go for a walk and collect his thoughts in silence; he would then return to the executive discussion prepared. Instead of mentally kicking yourself after a meeting for all of the possible points you could have made, ask for a short recess and take your own silence break.

The demands of time and attention for you and your team will continue to explode. In 2018 there will be half a billion wearable tech devices all competing for your team's mindshare, so teach your team now how to find and protect silence. It will be the most memorable gift.

Otherwise you may just have to say SHUSH!

Published on: Dec 22, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.