When Others Don’t Speak Up, It’s About You
When you find others don’t speak up in conversations and meetings, take a hard look in the mirror. It’s usually because of something you do — or don’t do.
What are you doing to suppress the desire of others to engage? This is not an accusation of fault. In many cases, leaders stifle risk-taking and engagement in groups just by their position of power over others.
People can unfairly fear what they believe are the negative consequences of speaking up. The stronger the leader’s personality, the more likely others might see potential traps when none exist.
That said, leaders have a tremendous influence on how willing others are to speak up. When leaders take up too much space, others sit on their hands and watch like spectators. Ironically, this makes leaders want to fill the room with their voice and ideas even more, which, in turn, creates more silence.
The best leaders encourage others to speak up by stepping back and asking others to take a step forward. Giving team members a greater stake in the conversation or meeting is an excellent solution.
When team members control the agenda or play specific roles in the meeting, they take on more ownership for contributing. Leaders do better when they remember others contribute most when they own the conversation, not just when they are asked to.
The next time you face a table full of silent team members, ask yourself, “What am I doing that encourages their silence?” It’s more often about your control than it is about the team.
Invite others to speak up by giving them some ownership over the conversation. Remember that silence is never golden when team members don’t contribute.