Most of us have been there. No one says a word at meeting, even at the end when there’s one last request for questions or comments.

Then everyone leaves and the chatter starts. Ideas, feedback, criticism are shared in small groups.

What’s the best way to encourage a “speak up” culture when everyone is together?

I believe that a group’s culture is driven from the top. And I am using the word ‘group” loosely here. It can be anything from a committee to a group formed around a project. Or a company to a family.

Harvard Business Review authors, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall and Laura Sherbin, identified these six behaviors that help leaders to encourage a “speak-up” culture … to tap into all of the great ideas within a group.

  • Ensure everyone is heard –Duh, right? Why is this one so hard? Because it takes time, but the front-end investment of time is totally worth it.
  • Create a safe environment to propose ideas – You could start slow here – perhaps anonymous feedback at first. Then, as participants understand that openness is encouraged, they may start sharing on their own.
  • Give decision making authority – Here is where it gets a little scary for those who like to be in control.  How about letting the group if there are parameters on decisions and giving flexibility where you can?
  • Share credit for success – Seems simple, huh.
  • Give actionable feedback – This means giving feedback that has describes what was done well or what could be done differently in the future.
  • Implement feedback from your team – Ask for feedback and listen to it. Find out what’s working and what isn’t.

Implementing these six ideas can go a long way to unleashing group innovation. Please remember – no one person has all the answers.


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