10 Effective Ways To Encourage Your Employees To Speak Up 


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A recent study showed that only 1 percent of employees feel comfortable voicing concerns in their workplace. But knowledgeable team members who feel empowered to speak freely are one of the best sources of feedback you can find. Here are some of the things I tell my executive coaching clients about building an open, honest exchange with their team:

Start with an outsider. The beginning of this work is one of the rare times it’s better to hire an outside resource. Bringing in a third party to talk with people assures them that their replies will be anonymous, and it frees them to speak freely about management issues.

Encourage candor. Make sure people know that “We want to know what you think” isn’t just lip service. Let them know that you really do want to know, and that they have a role in creating positive change.

Listen to understand. When someone is voicing a concern, resist the temptation to respond defensively or jump in with suggestions. Keep quiet and focus on listening carefully. It takes some practice, but the simple act of listening is one of the best ways to encourage people to speak up.

Mind your body language. Our body language sometimes speaks louder than our words. When you’re listening to feedback, make sure your face, body, and voice all signal openness and understanding.

Encourage feedback in work groups. People who work closely together are usually relaxed and comfortable with one another. Encourage them to develop feedback in their work group meetings to help them speak their mind with more ease.

Treat feedback as a gift. Especially if what you hear isn’t what you’d wish for, remember that it’s still an important source of help. Honor it as the valuable gift that it is.

Keep conversation moving. In meetings where issues are under discussion, don’t let the usual one or two people dominate. Without pressuring anyone, encourage quieter employees to share their thoughts.

Don’t be afraid of silences. When I facilitate workshops for organizations, long silences are common. Don’t rush in to fill silence with words—even if it’s awkward, give people time to persuade themselves that it’s OK to speak.

Reward people for speaking honestly. Thank people for participating, and make sure your gratitude shows up officially in performance reviews. As people see that honest discussion is rewarded, they’ll be more likely to jump in.

Share information. Be sure to share back what you’re hearing. The more people see results from employee feedback, the more likely they will be to speak freely.

Employees withhold their voice because they think it won’t accomplish anything or fear damage to their own standing. It’s the leader’s job to show people their opinions will be taken seriously without consequences.

Lead From Within: Speaking up and telling the truth aren’t always easy, but leadership means creating a culture where people can always say what’s on their mind.

 


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After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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