5 Valuable Tips for Helping People Speak Up

Do people speak up in your meetings? Do they feel safe enough to take a risk to speak up or to disagree?

Team leaders want people to speak up in meetings;  you want them to voice their concerns and share important data that could affect team decisions.  Team members need to feel comfortable, and safe, in order to speak up. That means that they won’t fear recrimination, or other people shutting them down or belittling their concern.  The foundation for this is that the team has to have a sense of shared purpose, “we’re all in this together”, and that everyone has something valuable to contribute to the conversation.  It’s the leader’s task to get the team to generate that sense of shared purpose, and to encourage full participation.  Here are 5 key tips for getting people to speak up.

  1. Get everyone’s voice in the room at the outset.  Speaking early on makes it more likely that someone will speak up later.  Go around the group and ask a check-in question, such as “What’s a recent accomplishment you’d like to share” or “What stakeholder have you made a good connection with – and how did you do that?”
  2. In addition to that, ask a question that involves feelings, such as “How are you feeling about our current project?” or “What difficult challenge are you facing?”  Feelings are data, and sharing them helps build the team’s emotional intelligence – a resource that helps teams operate more effectively, in service of making better decisions.  We err in thinking that we make decisions rationally on the basis of data alone.  In fact, our feelings play a critical role in our decision making – so it’s important to share them.
  3. Set a ground rule in this check-in that people can’t interrupt or ask questions. That helps create a sense of safety.
  4. Having this initial go-round is an opportunity for people to practice their listening skills. You can ask them to listen for something specific before the go-round, for example, “Listen for what’s important to each team member so that we can reflect that back afterwards”.  Knowing what’s important to peers is a critical piece of team emotional intelligence, an element of building caring relationships.  That’s not a touchy feely element – it means that we care about each other’s success and ability to grow while on this team.
  5. After the go-round, you can pair people up and have them reflect back what they heard. For example, “Tom, I heard that you’ve been working on being more clear and succinct in your communication.”  And, if this next piece is true, “And I experienced that clarity in your comments.” Not only have they practiced good listening, this is an opportunity to give feedback and encouragement.  This go-round and reflection are a way of building the connections between team members and make for a more cohesive team, which will be more resilient when conflict arises.

Stay tuned for more ideas about “Speaking Up”.  I’d love to hear from you.  How do these ideas resonate with you?  What questions do you have about this topic?

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