Saying What Needs to Be Said, Even in a Virtual Workplace
I’ve spent the past 18 months creating a series of short videos and podcasts under the name Say It Skillfully®. They help leaders and other business professionals like you be who you really are, and say what you think needs to be said.
When this happens across an organization or team, you and the people around you have an accurate, shared reality, or shared truth. That is the only way to make the best decisions, execute with speed, and achieve outstanding outcomes.
“We tend to think of truth as being just facts. But it’s more than that. It’s also how you feel, how someone else feels, what’s going on for them, are all things that contribute to the experience.”
The number one thing I see holding people and groups back is they’re not on the same page. Sales blames Product for poor quality. Product’s like, “Sales has poor leads.” The CEO says, “People aren’t executing.” People in the trenches complain, “Our leader’s vision isn’t clear.” They’re not on the same page, and I boil that down to a lack of empathetic understanding. We don’t understand what it feels like to be in each other’s shoes.
This becomes even more of a problem when teams are working remotely, and have fewer opportunities to connect face-to-face.
Creating a shared reality often leads you to what feels like an epiphany. “Wow. What I think is not what everyone else thinks.” (If this seems obvious to you, it’s not to most people.)
Imagine a strong-willed leader who thinks he has a clear vision and thus can’t grasp why everyone isn’t instantly doing what he says. We’ve all experienced the leader who runs into a room, barks some orders, runs out, and thinks, “This is great. Everybody’s onboard.”
But the problem isn’t just the leader, because when this happens, people tend to fold their arms and say, “Well, he doesn’t get it,” So no one even tries.
So we could wait for this person to somehow magically have an epiphany. (You could be waiting a very long time.)
Or we could say, “Gosh, I’m part of the problem. I know that this person doesn’t want to create this environment. But if I don’t tell him or her, they’re not going to know.” When people embrace “I am a part of the problem,” that becomes a driver of behavior change.
Yes, I’m telling you to speak up
You might be three levels down. You could be an intern. If you see something that’s stopping your team from reaching its potential and goals, you must acknowledge that you bear a responsibility to say something.
You might be a leader who is used to hearing a relatively small number of voices. Maybe it’s time to say, “Ah, it’s so amazing, this great passion. I’m noticing we’re not hearing from everyone. Let’s ask the folks who have been communicating to give it a rest, and let’s go around and hear what’s going on for the rest of the folks.”
You want to hear two different dimensions: the task part, when you’re physically doing the action, and the relational part. All the data shows is the relationship component is the key to the highest performance levels, both individual and group.
But we end up in companies saying all day long: “Hit the numbers! Develop the project plan, stay on track with the deadline,” instead of focusing on the human element of, “Who are the people I’m working with?”
That person on the other end of a video call isn’t a “project manager”. He might be someone who grew up in great poverty, whose parents died early, and who has known true hunger and despair.
Truly knowing this person might bring you to the revelation that, “It is now clear to me that this is how this person feels. I have offended them. I didn’t mean to, but how does she feel now? Maybe that explains why she seems to resist every move I try to make.”
My vision is that people can come into work and speak without fear.
We can let go of what doesn’t serve us, and together be part of something far bigger or far more valuable and meaningful than any one of us could be on our own. It’s up to you—yes, you—to say what needs to be said.