Struggling to be Heard

Communication is your number one tool in the workplace.

As an employee, to be able to communicate concise, thoughtful, strategic ideas to others effectively is how you make your mark in any work environment.  Being that person who everyone listens to when they speak is powerful.

This communication tool is valuable up and down the entire organizational structure.  You need to be able to communicate with your boss effectively.  Your boss needs to be able to communicate with her boss.  The president needs to be able to communicate with the board effectively.  And the board needs to be able to communicate with the investors.

While the communication skill level needs to be more polished the higher on the organization chart, the need to communicate is equally important throughout the organization.  Everyone has the potential to deliver great insight and strategic ideas.

Through understanding the importance of communication, it is every manager’s responsibility to draw these ideas out from the employees under their care.

The Dilemma of Being Heard

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many employees are reluctant to voice their ideas, and when they do, the other meeting participants seem not to hear them. 

Some of the best ideas I have received have come after a meeting from an attendee who was reluctant to voice their thoughts during the meeting.  These circumstances are unfortunate because everyone at the meeting would have benefitted greatly if these ideas were voiced in the meeting and could have been aired and refined at that time.

To be effective, managers need to develop the skills necessary to draw out these ideas in such a way that the employee feel comfortable in speaking and that the other attendees understand they need to listen.

Manager’s Tools

Here are some suggestions I have developed to help managers encourage all their team members to actively and effectively share their ideas.

1.         Know your staff.  We all know silent individuals and introverts who are capable of insightful ideas.  Gently call on these people and give them a comfortable platform to say what is on their minds.  Chances are you are not the only one who recognizes these employee’s knack for great ideas.

2.         The silent employees.  When someone who does not normally speak up finally voices an idea or opinion, make sure to take the time to explore their comments and understand what they are saying.

3.         Control the dominators.  Most meetings have a few attendees who intentionally or unintentionally dominate the meetings and the discussion.  First, try to use non-verbal signals to let them know they have said enough and to wait for others to speak.  If non-verbal signals do not work, its time to call them out and let them know that it’s time for them to be quiet.

4.         At the beginning of each meeting let everyone know that the reason they are attending is that you require their input.  Nobody has been asked just to sit and listen.  Comments, ideas and opinions are expected.

5.         Performance at meetings is a great coaching moment.  After each meeting is a good time to quickly meet with some of your staff and give them some feedback about how they participated, what they could do better, and what you expect of them in the future.

The Bible

Business meetings are a lot like our relationship to God.  We sit in meetings with some ideas, not knowing how well they will be received.  When we voice ideas, many times, we are surprised at our insight and how timely they were.  Yet, if we never brought them up, we never would have known if they made a difference.

With God, we sit and wonder if we should bring up small issues and worries, yet when they are brought before God in prayer, He tells us He loves us and that no worry is too small for Him.  Yet, if we never prayed our worries, we never would have known how much God loves us.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 says.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Our responsibility as managers is to teach and train those working under us.  Meeting participation is a key to everyone’s career success.  And you are in a position to teach that those under your care are valued, and their ideas and input are expected and needed.