Do you have a team member who has great talent but won’t speak up to contribute? There are several possible reasons why.
And the bottom line is if your team member won’t speak up, you are losing revenue and momentum – simply because he isn’t adding the value he could.
What can you do?
Let’s take a look at five different executive teams in the following scenarios. Each had at least one team member who wasn’t speaking up. Do any of these cases sound familiar to your own team’s situation?
Jim and the So-Called Expert
Jim has been CMO for a year, now. He has an impressive track record and an uncanny sense of what to anticipate in order to serve customers. In his one-on-one meetings, Jim shows great strength in strategizing. But when he gets into the executive team meetings, he simply shuts down. His CEO is frustrated. If Jim keeps quiet, the team isn’t able to benefit from his expertise and perspective.
“Sandra’s the self-proclaimed expert on our team,” Jim explains wryly. “As CFO, she has decided she’s the person with the organizational ‘eye.’ Whether she knows what she’s talking about or not, she will weigh in and do it first. Others may jump in and play – but I’m just not willing to do that. If someone wants my opinion, I guess they will ask me.”
Samantha’s Intolerance for Poor Arguments
The executive team wonders if Samantha is really happy at the company. She starts to speak up but shuts down quickly when the team wants to move toward a solution. Samantha is becoming disengaged and it shows. Her CEO is worried. “I need a CIO who can wrap her arms around problems and run with the solutions,” she says.
Samantha has another view on this. She says, “Quite simply, the executive team is lazy. They always settle for less – the path of least resistance. Every time I suggest doing some outside research to see what others are doing, they snuff me out. I’m tired of contributing to inferior arguments for poor solutions. Why doesn’t our CEO take Samantha aside and give her some coaching on this?”
Bill and His Need for a Business Case
Bill speaks up at times and shuts down at others. His team members wonder which Bill is going to show up today – the one who contributes, or the one who seems to mentally check out at odd points in meeting discussions. Bill’s CEO wonders why Bill dips in and out of discussions.
Bill himself says he gets quiet when he can’t figure out how certain decisions impact the larger picture. “Sometimes the team seems to get into discussing pet projects that don’t really support the business imperative we set for this year,” he says. “I have a hard time hanging in there when it doesn’t make sense to the larger picture. Why doesn’t our CEO stop it and get us back on track? He lets this stuff go on forever and our meetings become pretty ineffective.”
Dani the Divergent Thinker
“Dani’s a bright leader whose best days are yet to come,” said her CEO. “But I can’t figure out why the rest of the team gets frustrated with her when discussing certain topics. I’ve been waiting for her to figure it out. Or for them to all work it out. But it’s not happening.”
Dani has additional light to shed on this. “My team is very structured in its conversations,” she begins. “The members seem to be ‘convergent thinkers,’ and they follow a very tight process to arrive at solutions. Don’t get me wrong – we need to come to some quick decisions in this current environment. But I’m a ‘divergent thinker’ and need to free-flow a bit to come up with best solutions. I’m pretty frustrated that when we are looking to innovate, my contributions seem to be perceived as getting us off course. I simply shut down when that happens. I wish my CEO would check in with me – surely he sees that I’m not participating?”
Jan Wants Better Decision-Making
Jan is perceived as “dead weight” on the executive team. Her credentials and expertise are impressive, but she doesn’t contribute her wealth of knowledge to the team’s benefit. She used to speak up, but took what seemed to be an argumentative tone which deterred others from entering into conversation. She now defers to others on the team without really contributing. Her CEO wonders if she simply doesn’t know how to get along with others.
“I have become tired of being perceived as contrary,” Jan shares. “In my last position with another company, we prized bantering back and forth with different perspectives on things. No one took it as arguing; rather, they enjoyed turning issues on their proverbial heads to examine all sides. The result was a rich outcome. We enjoyed it. Here, it appears I’m just arguing. I wish someone would be real enough to talk with me about it – and to entertain another possibility besides seeing me as antagonistic. Perhaps it’s my tone. I wish my CEO would give me feedback, but she acts like she doesn’t see it.”
And what about the talented, but quiet team member on your own team? What’s his or her side of the story? If you are in charge, it’s time for you to work on how your team can work together to resolve this. The loss is too great to let this go – and the ROI once you bring this to resolution too great to leave on the table.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.