Inspiring Organizational Growth
How many times have you led a group meeting and said, “So what does everyone think about …” only to be answered with complete silence and people looking down at their knees? Why don’t people speak up?
Trust is at the core of the issue. You are asking people to share, without first establishing needed trust in the group. Everyone in the room has their own story, their own past experiences. Have they been bullied for speaking out? Do they typically find themselves silenced by others? Are they willing to share their opinion and risk being shamed and embarrassed by others who may view their idea as stupid?
Negative Self Talk
In fact, you might be astounded to learn the amount of negative self-talk and self-doubt that are going through the minds of people in your room. In her book Conflict Management and Coaching, Cinnie Noble advises that “historical experiences of being provoked or triggered generally tend to taint the impact of the new situation to a greater extent than a single episode. Repeated provocations also typically serve to entrench our judgements and strength on this person or situation” (62).
My Best Interests in Mind
For your members to feel open to sharing, first they need to trust that you have their best interests in mind. If not, they may become focused on memories that reinforce their own negative self-talk and not allow themselves to participate. Additionally, if they do speak up, the first time they find themselves shot down, or shrugged off, their self-talk will reinforce their need to disengage.
In fact, trust is linked to many core interests of honesty, respect, loyalty, commitment, and integrity. Therefore, trust is not something that many people will give easily. It is one of those fundamental things that is difficult to gain and easy to lose. It also plays a very key role in the definitions of leadership and relationships. It is imperative that trust building occurs first before an organization attempts to deal with sensitive and important issues.
Good Intentions Cause Increased Mistrust
I have watched as well-intentioned organizations and groups try to rally people together to discuss issues on diversity strategies, inclusion efforts, practices to introduce new processes and replace old ones, yet have not taken the time to first establish trust. Their efforts tend to result in further mistrust and a failure to move forward rather than their intended purpose.
Think back to the last big discussion you participated in.
it was a schedule change, or a new practice or leadership strategy. How well did the discussion go? Could you almost predict who would be willing and open to hear the ideas and who would have their arms crossed and disagree? If you had new people involved in the discussion, were people willing to hear their insight? Cinnie Noble speaks of how negative self-talk can play out neurologically and impact a person’s willingness to be involved. “If clients in conflict management coaching concentrate on what went wrong rather than looking ahead with fresh thinking, they stand to remain entrenched in a problem saturated mindset” (Conflict Mastery 28). The result may be that the group seems to get nowhere or, in fact, gets even more entrenched in opposing opinions. Little progress is made, and people become stuck in their own stories and opinions.
Leaders Create Cultures Of Trust
As you read this, you may be thinking...well now what? How do I improve trust? After all, you need those conversations to happen. You need to generate ideas and potential solutions. Its not a quick fix solution, but it certainly can be done. Author Carrie-Lynn Hotson has written a book for Leaders entitled "Knowing Who You Lead". In it, she provides leaders with key strategies and tools they can use to not only enhance trust, but also address past issues that plague Organizational progress. Without dealing with the root causes, leaders will continue to hear "silence". To learn more, please visit her website www.knowingwhoyoulead.com
Carrie-Lynn Hotson is the author of Knowing Who You Lead, has created a series of blog posts to generate discussion, insight and inspire transformational leadership growth.