Communication is a skill that all successful leaders need to acquire and maintain — not just in business, but also life. Having the ability to speak in a calm, concise, and clear manner will help your team be able to do likewise.
Sharing your vision, goals, and expectations is only one piece of the puzzle. It takes an accomplished communicator to encourage their employees to speak up. After all, excellent communication helps strengthen relationships, allows the exchange of ideas, and assists your organization in overcoming barriers.
Unfortunately, a study from VitalSmarts shows that “only one percent of employees feel “extremely confident” when it comes to voicing their concerns in the workplace at critical moments.” Additionally, “a third of employees say their organizations do not promote or support holding crucial conversations.” And those sad figures are likely to get bleaker, as remote work continues to replace interactions in a physical office.
How can you change these types of statistics in your organization? Start by implementing the following techniques.
Get to the root of the problem.
The absolute first step you need to take is identifying why people aren’t raising their hands. If you don’t know why, then how can you fix the problem? It’s like if your car doesn’t start when you leave in the morning. You can’t repair a problem unless you know precisely what’s wrong in the first place.
You could interview your team or conduct focus groups. Someone other than you should do this interviewing, as they’re probably afraid to tell you why they don’t raise their hands. You could also issue surveys to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
The issue may be because they’re afraid of being criticized by others on the team, or being overlooked for a promotion. Or, they may not understand what you expect from them.
In short, you need to find out what’s holding people from voicing their opinions. Then you can find ways to correct the problem.
Don’t overwhelm your team.
Let’s say that you have everyone gathered for a team meeting. Without even giving attendees a chance to get settled, you bombard them with way too much information. Even worse, what if the assignments you’re throwing at them are abstract, complex, or even utterly boring.
If every member of your team has their head spinning, or they’re yawning, then they’re not going to be engaged. How can they ask questions or provide input when they don’t know exactly what’s happening? Or, they don’t even have the opportunity to participate because as the CEO, manager, or boss — we’re jumping from topic to topic too quickly.
Whenever presenting information, keep it as simple as possible. Skip the jargon and only focus on the top one or two issues. Remember, you don’t need to cover everything right now. Save the less critical stuff for another time.
Make meetings more engaging.
Meetings can be a serious time-waster. They can also crush productivity and morale when not when properly. However, there times when meetings are necessary. That’s why making them more effective should be a priority.
While there a multitude of ways for you to improve meetings, making sure that they’re engaging should be at the top of your list. You can achieve meetings worth showing up for, by:
- Kicking things off with an icebreaker like telling a story or playing a fun game or activity.
- Not using industry slang or terminology.
- Saving handouts, even digital ones, until the conclusion of the meeting to avoid distractions.
- Leaving time for a Q&A at the end.
- Sending out an agenda in advance so that no one is surprised. Also, this gives invitees an opportunity to review any relevant information and prepare their questions or concerns.
Stop dominating the conversation and listen.
While we wouldn’t say this trait is part of all manager's style — we do think that some of us have such a healthy ego that we love hearing ourselves talk. The problem is that if you’re always dominating the conversation, others won’t even bother chiming in. What’s the point when they know there’s hardly a chance to be a part of the discussion.
There are times when you need to speak, but work on talking less and listening more. It may take some practice. However, this is probably one of the most straightforward and effective strategies to get your team to speak up more often.