Let’s paint a picture……….post meeting you and your colleagues are in the tea room. You are talking away, and then you hear someone say “I totally didn’t agree with that” “Why the hell are we doing that?” Other colleagues agree, grunt, grab their coffee and walk back to their desks. Another 1-hour meeting has taken place, another hour you won’t get back.
How often do you walk out of a meeting or huddle and feel that you or others have differing opinions and mindsets on the topics discussed or agreements?
I recently sat in on an SLT (Senior Leadership Team) meeting. A lot of great ideas were talked about, future plans were workshopped, and everyone seemed to be on the same page. I’m an advocate of tuning in and listening to what’s not being said, and that’s what I did. I noticed hesitation in many of the people sitting in the room. Lack of eye contact, minimal engagement and contribution and dull shakes of the head when a “so-called” agreement was taking place.
Upon leaving the meeting, I asked two of the senior leaders what they thought about the topic that was being discussed. One of them said that he didn't mind it and had too much on to think about it further and the other one said she totally disagreed.
I turned around and questioned this and asked why she, as a senior leader, would agree with something when she didn’t believe in it.
This is the response I get when I question this exact scenario across the board:
- My idea may have been rejected
- I didn't feel I had a place at the table to voice my opinion
- No one would have supported me
- My voice is never heard
- It will create more work for me if I change the idea/s
- People listen and then nothing changes
- I feel I didn't have the right to speak up
As sad and frustrating as this is, I ask you:
“What does it cost you and or your colleagues if you don’t speak up?”
“What does it cost the organisation you work in or the business you run?”
Not speaking up and being heard for whatever reason is common, I see it everywhere. I truly believe some of the hardest most challenging situations are overcome by staying true to what you believe in and challenging this. We need to learn to “Lead out loud”.
Dissonance is the truth about harmony.
Harmony can be seen as a moment, and I believe healthy debate, with intent, is the input to achieving this. Many teams and businesses seem harmonious, and this is comfortable and easy, but this doesn’t always create a culture for progression and innovation.
As the Dalai Lama says “Want the Change, Be the change”
By not speaking up, not only are you letting yourself down but also your co-workers. I believe that our why to change must exceed our why to remain the same, and this can be a good check in to gauge when and why to speak up and challenge something you believe in.
Below are some key tips to get you on track:
Confidence and belief
These two areas come into play when debating with intent so if either of these areas are lacking, look at what you need to do, feel and be to top these up. Maybe you challenged something in the past and were shut down or even penalised? Maybe you said nothing and saw the negative impact of this? These sorts of experiences form our beliefs, and we all know the more we believe something, the stronger that belief becomes. I reckon beliefs are lies we tell ourselves, so take the time to think about what you need to let go of and rewrite the beliefs that will serve you.
Embrace and acknowledge disagreements
Okay, now you’re on the other side. Do you react or respond when others put a healthy debate on the table or challenge something? It’s important that you give back what you would like to receive. Notice what you do and what you say next time a colleague challenges something. Responding with “I hear/see what you are saying” opposed to “No, I think we should….” will pay dividends. It shows you have acknowledged the person and not just what they are putting forward. This builds rapport and a forum of openness and can contribute to the DNA of a culture that embraces people opinions, ideas and thoughts.
Know your why
When challenging something, back it up. It’s as simple as that. Don’t voice something if you don’t know why you are challenging it. This is a common thing we all observe where many people debate something to be heard and not for the right reason. Don't be that person. Know the “why” of what you are challenging and back it up with ideas, solutions and an actionable plan of how it could work or be applied, depending on the context. This builds respect from others, as this demonstrates that you have invested thought and are serious about what you are raising.
If you work in a culture where speaking up and challenging the status quo is not an option, look at how you can introduce this as part of the DNA moving forward.
Bringing this up as a topic to be discussed could be a great starting point.
During The Kindred Executive program, commencing soon, we delve into the topic of leading out loud and challenging the status quo. We’d love to have you as part of this annual collaboration of like-minded leaders exploring what is possible on a regular basis.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear how you foster a space where debate is welcomed and the outcome of this?