In my coaching practice, I have worked with many clients who hear feedback from their boss, peers, and even their staff that they need to speak up more often. Almost always, these are leaders who are highly regarded and considered smart and technically proficient in their work. They can be counted on to get things done – and done well. They are leaders who never say no to additional projects and are rarely involved in conflicts. But the fact that they’re not speaking up more often is getting in the way of their leadership – and their ability to step into bigger jobs – even with all these great qualities.

Does this sound like you or someone you work with?

So many great qualities and yet, people want to hear from you more often. They want to hear your opinions, your perspective, your stance on important or difficult issues. When you dig underneath this situation, I often find that my clients who receive this feedback believe that most people talk too much and don’t say a lot. They prefer to let their work speak for itself. They also may be afraid of being judged, or worse, being wrong. It can be really hard for them to push against those beliefs and share their ideas and thoughts in the moment…or at all.

The problem with holding on to those beliefs and not sharing your insights is that your colleagues miss out on the benefit of your perspective, and they lose the opportunity to know where you stand and what you stand for, what matters to you, and where you may see things differently than they do. All of that is important for effective work relationships and effective teams.

If you are someone who people want to hear more from, here are a few suggestions:

  • Be willing to share a thought that is not perfectly thought through – Your desire to formulate the best answer or the most articulate thought will likely lead you to delay commenting or miss the opportunity to offer your ideas. As you’re finding the right words, others are jumping in, and the conversation moves on without you. Find ways to share perhaps when you’re not completely ready to. Practice this in less ‘threatening’ situations so that you can become more comfortable with this new, perhaps scary, behavior.
  • Make the implicit explicit – It may seem obvious to you, but that idea, insight, or perspective you have needs to be spoken. Often I hear from clients that they assume others have the same thought, so they don’t need to share it. Or that people know what they know – and it doesn’t need to be said. Saying what may seem implicit – making it explicit – can bring clarity, add an important viewpoint, get everyone on the same page, or connect dots that lead the conversation in a positive or different direction.
  • Jump into a discussion early – The longer you take to speak, the more likely you will remain silent. So, commit to saying something early in a meeting or discussion – and it will be easier to contribute after that. Perhaps have a trusted colleague who can act as your accountability partner, so that you’re more likely to step in when you usually might stay more silent.
  • Practice stepping out of the observer role – You may be most comfortable observing, assessing what is being said, and watching dynamics play out. That also means you are probably tuning in on important points others may be missing. When you catch yourself in that comfortable observer role, switch it up and share what you have observed.
  • Schedule more one-on-ones with colleagues – Speaking up is not just about talking in meetings. It’s also about having more conversations with your colleagues so they hear what you think and get to know you better. Make it a goal to have at least one new one-on-one a week. Scheduling a 30-minute conversation with a colleague you would not necessarily meet with will open the door to better relationships and more understanding of you.
  • Try “yes, and…” – It isn’t always necessary to have a brilliant, unique idea to contribute to a conversation. Sometimes simply building off of what someone else has said or suggested can be less intimidating and easier to tackle at first. Challenge yourself to find an “add-on” when you can during your next conversations.

The good news is people want to hear what you have to say. They know you have a lot to offer, and they feel they are missing out on your great ideas and insights. So, speak up, speak out, and join the conversation.

What helps you to speak up more often?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

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