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How To Speak Your Mind At Work

By Lisa Woods (1108 words)
Posted in Professional Development on November 9, 2019

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We’ve all been there, sitting in a meeting, standing in the break room, or face-to-face in the boss’s office…thinking…"I know how to solve this"…"I have a great idea"…"I know what to do"…"pick ME to lead"…

 

                  But something stops us from speaking up. Shear terror? Lack of confidence? Afraid of not being taken seriously?

 

Whatever the reason, we stop short of speaking our mind and regret it afterward.

 

…"Why didn’t I just speak up?"

 

Bottom line, if you want to succeed in the workplace, you need to overcome this communication barrier.

 

Let’s put a little perspective on this from a leader/manager point of view…or for that matter, the view of anyone else participating in the discussion. See if you can relate.

 

Three Types of People That Speak Their Mind

 

There are three types of people that speak their mind in the workplace.

 

1) Self-Gratifying

 

Those who like to hear the sound of their own voice…no matter the relevance or timing of the topic. These individuals can build a reputation of being annoying. In most cases they don’t notice or care how they are perceived by others. They spend so much time thinking about what they will say next, they often miss the entire conversation.

 

2) Team Player

 

Those who want to be heard, to be relevant, to be considered part of the team, to be respected…no matter the depth of their contribution. These individuals may be considered favorites of the boss and others tend to like them. Sometimes considered “yes men/women”, these are team players that have an agreeable voice on most topics. They also have the ability to point out risks in positive way without injecting judgment or negativity into the discussion.

 

3) Thought Leader

 

Those who want to have their ideas considered, bought-into and implemented…even if their ideas are contrary to popular opinion. These individuals relate their ideas to issues important to the group (of obvious importance, or not so obvious until they justify it). They “teach”, justify and get buy-in. They ask questions of others and respond respectfully to questions asked of them. They own their ideas and are willing (but not insistent) to oversee their implementation. The idea and its result are more important than personal gratification.

 

When you look around your workplace and consider the people who speak up, are you able to place them into one of these three categories? Chances are you can. We all share the pleasure, and displeasure, of knowing people who speak up. Maybe that’s a big part of the reason we avoid speaking our mind in the first place. We don’t know how we will be judged by others once we do.

 

Bottom line…communicating our thoughts and ideas results in some kind of judgement…not only of what we say, but the type of person we are. We get caught in the fear of trying to be someone that others want us to be, not knowing if we will be accepted, not knowing if the timing is right, not knowing if we will even be heard because the personal judgement may overshadow the idea itself.

 

Let me add on that in any relationship, personal or work related, fear of judgement prevents progress, creates stress, and limits our ability to communicate. To put it simply…If you spend your time trying to act or say things in a way you “think” others want you to, you will get frustrated and eventually shut down…fearing that your actions or words will be judged, and resenting others for making you feel the way you do.

 

If you are stuck in this place of fear, you are not alone. It is one of the most common fears in the workplace. As a matter of fact, it is the number one fear reported by my MBA students during leadership development discussions; followed by negotiation skills and networking.

 

Here’s What You Can Do to Overcome the Fear of Speaking Up at Work:

 

1)     Proactively decide which group you want to fit into when others judge you.

 

1. Self-Gratifying


2. Team Player


3. Thought Leader

 

Think of this as building your personal brand when it comes to speaking your mind at work. Not how you think you are currently perceived, but how you want to be perceived by your coworkers, boss, or others in the organization.

 

2)     Build a checklist of actions you will take to develop this reputation.

 

For the sake of this discussion I’ll assume most will focus on Team Player or Thought Leader. Here are some ideas you can start with.

 

Team player: Actively listen to others. Verbally support the ideas of others. Ask what you can do to support initiatives. Proactively follow up on initiatives to show continued support.

 

Thought Leader: Define the relationship between your idea and a business need. Seek informal feedback on your idea before presenting it formally. Incorporate that feedback into your concept and give credit to others when you speak up. Ask for feedback, ask questions & follow-up.

 

 

These actions may sound obvious, but how often do you think about them before you walk into a meeting? If you proactively seek to build a reputation, chances are your actions will adjust to support that reputation…and your focus will adjust from fear to purpose.

 

Keep in mind that you can fit into any one of these categories on any given day…but to build a reputation requires focus. Over time you will build your confidence and speaking up will become more natural before you know it.

 

Management Tip….

If you sense that members of your team fear speaking up, going around the room to let everyone have a voice is not the answer. That approach may increase fear and resentment. Instead, coach employees individually to develop skills, define their personal brand and act in a way to achieve it.

 

Good luck!

 

Lisa

 

 

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Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com   

Lisa, a thought leader in Business Management and Leadership, founded ManagingAmericans.com in 2011 after 20+ years successfully leading and driving growth in the corporate world. Her objective is to help mentor and develop professionals to be better leaders, managers, team players and individual contributors in a “do-it-yourself” learning environment using unique & practical tools to support the process. Lisa’s career spans from Global Sales & Marketing to General Management of Multinational Conglomerates. Today she continues to consult small business owners through her private practice. Lisa's publications include: • 4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials © 2013 • The Cross Functional Business: Beyond Teams © 2015 • Action Item List: Drive Your Team With One Simple Tool © 2016 • Small Business Planning Made Simple: What To Consider Before You Invest © 2017

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