Hello Friday - Speak Up

Happy Friday! This week I had the opportunity to attend the NeuroLeadership Summit in NYC. As always, the content was thought provoking, relevant and provided many insights. One of the sessions I attended was called “The Speaking Up Continuum”, which leads me to ask the  question:

Do you work in an environment in which you are able to voice new ideas, question decisions, and challenge behaviors?

According to a 2017 Gallup study,  creating a culture in which employees felt their opinions counted can contribute to the following impacts:

  • 27% reduction in turnover,

  • 40% reduction in safety incidents, and

  • 12% increase in productivity

Based on these statistics, it makes sense that we would do what we could to lay a foundation for people to feel comfortable speaking up;  but unfortunately, companies are not purposefully focused on creating this dynamic within their cultures. To begin to lay a foundation for speaking up, we need to understand some of reasons why people do not speak up. There are three main reasons why employees don’t speak up:

  1. Threat to belonging. Humans are social creatures and social connection is as important as the air we breathe. If we speak up, there is a fear of rejection (which feels extremely painful to us). We would rather be in the in-group and stay quiet, than be in the out-group and voice our opinion.

  2. Uncertainty. Most of the time, we think that someone else will speak up if they see the same behaviors happening or decisions being made. If we do not see others speaking up, there is a high probability we will not either.

  3. Power dynamics. In many organizations, there is a hierarchy and there is fear with upsetting the hierarchy. If they speak up, question decisions, challenge behaviors, employees  may think they are upsetting these dynamics with superiors. 

Being aware of these concerns is a first step to understanding the dynamics that exist. Getting employees thoughts and ideas on the table embraces diversity of thought. Diverse ideas and thoughts brings better outcomes. 

Creating a culture in which speaking up is valued starts with leaders. Leaders, please empower employees to speak up. Think about structures your company has in place that are barriers to people speaking up, and begin to make a shift.

Some ways you can do this are:

  • Asking questions and listening carefully,

  • Getting feedback and advice and acting on it where you can,

  • Being open to feedback - practicing being non defensive 

  • In meetings, letting employees share ideas first - leader goes last 

  • Thanking people when they speak up 

  • Role modeling the  behavior of “agree to disagree” and letting that be seen as ok

  • Sharing credit for team success,

  • Having regular contact with team members.

Creating a culture of speaking up can make all the difference in the world for both employees and improving business results.

What steps will you take today to foster this type of environment?

Have a great day and a great weekend 😊!

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