Speak Up! Listen Up!

One of the most common dynamics we see in conversations in senior teams is leaders who find it challenging to speak up and leaders who seem unable to listen up. 

At the start of every team coaching session we support team members to be aware of their speaking and listening. We encourage everyone to participate fully but to manage their ‘air time’ so they do not dominate. 

Personality traits can influence how much or how little we speak in a meeting, and we have noticed there are also differences related to seniority, gender, language and culture. In coaching, leaders who tend not to speak up often describe how they hold back, then another more vocal person makes their point and then they become more of a passive, listening team member.

There are many reasons why people choose not to speak up. This includes fear of getting it wrong, fear of coming across as ‘difficult’ or fear of rejection from the group. Good conversations need team members to have the courage to speak up.

On the other hand, a dominant, interrupting voice often misses what’s really being said. When a team member is listening only to respond, explain or disagree, they are unlikely to fully understand what is being said. Often driven by passion and energy to succeed, the dominant speaker can miss important context, nuance and possibility. Good conversations also involve having the courage to listen.

With courage, all of us can choose to speak up and listen up.