How to Get Your Team to Speak Up |

How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

We’ve all seen it: that shy employee who has a tremendous amount of knowledge and ability but can’t seem to bring themselves to speak up in groups, meetings or in front of an audience.

It’s a loss for the team as a whole when one member doesn’t feel comfortable talking and contributing. Remember that old saying about a team being as strong as its weakest link?

Being shy — or worried about appearances, lacking in self-confidence, or being the ‘keep your head down’ kind of employee — doesn’t make a team member bad at their job, but it does make it more difficult to coordinate efforts and get the most out of everyone’s abilities.

There are a couple of tools in the toolbox that will help get everyone on the team to participate!

Model the behavior you want to see

Like most any situation where you are dealing with human behavior, if you want a certain action from your team, you need to model it.

In other words, if you expect them to speak up and risk looking ‘wrong’ or ‘silly’, you have to be willing to do it, too. Address the elephant in the room, whatever that may be. Take a risk in your speaking. If they see you willing to do it, they will be more willing to do it too. Make it clear that meetings are interactive, not one-sided speeches.

Request feedback and thank them

In order to get people to speak up, you may have to invite questions. This isn’t about singling out the shy person, like a teacher picking on the kid who never raises his hand. This is about making sure that people have a chance to have a voice. Invite questions, feedback, and comments and keep control of any judgment.

If there are people in the group who are prone to shutting down comments from others that they don’t agree with, you need to deal with those people because they just became your weakest link. Give credit where credit is due, when someone has the gumption to put something ‘out there’.

Engage with other options

A good way to get a reluctant participant to open up is to leverage a medium that they can get behind first. Example? Ask them to provide a written memo or report on what they are working on and to circulate it in advance to the rest of the team.

This gives other team members a chance to approach the writer one on one or in a smaller setting and ask questions, rather than having the shy person approach everyone else directly for feedback.

Figure out why there is silence

If the silence isn’t limited to one or two people, there is something else going on. Has there been judgment in the past by members of the group? Are suggestions given routinely ignored, despite being requested?

Find out why people are holding back by asking them in a more conducive setting, one to one, with the clear statement that they will not be ‘punished’ in any way for honesty. You need to get past any major blocks like this, as they are really not conducive to a team effort and can signal other issues within the group.

Give advance notice of meetings/informational requirements

If people feel prepared for a meeting, they’re more likely to participate. That might seem basic but expecting people to have the information you’re looking for at the drop of a hat might not be realistic and, in fact, might be detrimental to getting people to fight the very natural tendency to keep what they know closer to their chest, rather than sharing it with the group.

Speaking up and sharing information is at the basis of any good team, but the lack of ability to do so shouldn’t disqualify someone from their role. The ability to speak up can be taught, as long as the environment is one that welcomes it. That has to come from the leadership level, so make it a priority!

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

Tips for Business Women to Help Fine-Tune Persuasion Skills photo

Tips for Business Women to Help Fine-Tune Persuasion Skills

Super Girl has x-ray vision and Wonder Woman has the lasso of truth. What does the woman in business have as a superpower? The art of persuasion. This power, unlike x-ray vision, isn’t simply given at birth but learned, honed and sharpened. If you are a woman looking to add to your business success, follow these 7 tips to refine your persuasion powers.

Use Empathy

Many women have the natural attribute of empathy, a valuable tool in perfecting persuasion abilities. Empathy can be used to read the reactions of others and apply that information in a way that appeals to the listeners’ concerns. Empathy requires gentleness. Instead of pushing others to see a certain point of view, gently reasoning with empathy can be highly effective.

Use Names Often

A customer or client will react when they hear their own name. Learn the names of your clients as quickly as you can and use those names often when working with them. It will compliment their egos and therefore, build connections. Persuading your clients becomes that much easier since connections already exists.

Use Reciprocity

We tend to feel obligated to return favors after people do favors for us. Using this principle in business is a foundation for persuasion. Sales, coupons and special promotions are obvious reciprocity tools. Dr. Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Marketing, Arizona State University and author of the book The Psychology of Persuasion, says “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.”

Use Images

What we see is often much more important than what we hear. Because of that truth, it is important for business women to be aware of what their clients are seeing. Make a professional first impression. Pictures that tell a story can be used to harness emotional responses. In order to become the best persuader you can be, master the art of creating images through words. Be specific and use language that can make your client “see” what you want them to see.

Use Undeniable Truths

Build trust with your client by beginning discussions with an undeniable truth like “Asking is the beginning of receiving,” or “If you don’t believe, why would they?” By doing this you are offering your client a statement they can agree with, since it is true. You are immediately building trust with them by starting off on a point on which you agree. Undeniable truths lead to further agreements, making persuading your client to your way of thinking easier.

Use Social Proof

Tom Polanski, EVP, eBrand Media, in an article that published the results of six of Dr. Cialdini’s persuasion principles remarked, “Many television commercials say ‘If our lines are busy, please call again,’ instead of saying “Operators are standing by.” The first response implies that other people like your offer so much that the phone lines are busy, which may persuade others to act similarly.”

When people are unsure about a course of action, they look around for guidance. They want to see what other people are doing or deciding to do. This is a fact of human nature that is fundamental to know and use in persuasion. By using social proof that others have agreed or are agreeing to your approach, you are in effect using peer pressure to guide their decisions. We never fully grow out of peer pressure. Testimonials from satisfied customers show your target audience that people who are similar to them enjoyed your product.

Use “Manifesting the Next Step”

Cohen-First’s technique takes your customers out of their own limitations. It persuades them into the next steps, even if there is a barrier.

In an article titled Women in Business: Being Persuasive in Customer Meetings, Rena Cohen-First wrote, “After I complete an informal presentation, I love to ask the million-dollar question, ‘I’m curious to know, what do you see as the next step?’ This is my favorite technique of all! If they cannot answer this question (for any number of reasons or objections), then you can ask the following: ‘I see. Out of curiosity, if that issue (the budget, the personal change, the holidays) were resolved, then what would the next step be?’ This is what I call manifesting the next step.

The power of persuasion is a super power when used in business and can propel your career to new heights. Fine-tune your skills and watch as clients and customers say “Yes!” more and more. You don’t need a cape or an invisible plane, just a determination to employ persuasion in your practices.