In a meeting with senior leaders you think of something valuable to say…then you start the inner debate: should I say it now? What if they think I’m wrong? What if it shows I don’t know enough?
Ever get confused why you hesitate, especially when you speak up freely with peers and direct reports?
Here are three reasons why you might hesitate to speak up – and the easy fixes to help you bring your best contribution to the organization.
1. You make senior leaders “one up” and you “one down.” That puts a lot of pressure on you. “I better say something earth-shattering or else wait…”
In those situations you are being Subjective – deciding what to contribute to your organization based on your concern for what other people will think about you. And based on your own opinion of yourself as (potentially) not knowing enough.
You’ll be able to speak up without hesitation when you can be Objective – clear about what you do know, and what you don’t know – and being able to state that powerfully. And when you have conviction about the value of what you do know.
2. You make it about “you.” In the crunch of the moment you are making decisions about what to contribute based on how it will impact you or your perception by others.
Instead, ask yourself: “who in the organization will benefit by me saying this?” It might be providing information that could help the leader make a decision. Or your point indicates a potential unintended consequence of a plan. Or you are providing a new perspective that will stimulate everyone else’s creativity.
In other words, be confident by taking yourself out if it! Your organization is not paying you to make decisions based on your negative self talk. You are paid to contribute to the organization based on how you can contribute to your colleagues, customers, clients, patients, etc. Fill yourself with love and a sense of purpose toward those end users of your comments.
You will be able to speak up without hesitation when you focus on who will benefit from your contributions.
3. You are not equipped with influential ways of speaking up or pushing back. Its always important to speak up with influence but most difficult to state information that offers disagreement, or pushes back on senior leaders’ assertions.
Its easier when you have concise phrases that stand your ground while still making the other person feel respected. Here are 3 ways you could say it:
a) Point out what you think is ‘right’ about their point/decision, then ask a question about an additional point to consider
b) Speak up concisely with what you want to say — why you think it’s important to add, a question that leads in the direction you think is important for them to consider.
c) Suggest you think it would support their plan if you could offer to think through possible unintended consequences.
Make sure you use a tone that shows genuine interest in building upon the leader’s ideas. Even if you are disagreeing, you are engaging in a constructive problem solving discussion intended to further improve the leader’s idea.
You work so hard to have knowledge and be good at what you know. Rise above your own self talk so you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Have the courage to say what will be helpful – and the skill to say it so it can be heard!
Equipped with these kinds of phrases for saying your ideas, you’ll feel empowered to speak up even in the face of the most intimidating people or in a room full of people talking loudly over one another!