5 Ways Leaders Tackle the Fear of Speaking Up

With so many of our organizations’ hierarchies becoming flatter and flatter the old model of only sharing ideas with our immediate boss, is falling by the wayside. No longer is it looked down upon to speak with our boss’s boss or any colleague in a different department or division. Not only have the norms changed with speaking up but also what teams are realizing is that staying open to perspectives from different parts of an organization actually creates stronger results.A heated discussion emerged in one of my leadership communication programs this past week on the consequences of speaking up to someone other than your boss. Some of the mid-level leaders felt they didn’t have the choice to go beyond a certain person or group to share their ideas. That feeling of being “blocked” was weighing heavily on them. They commented:“I wish I could share how to improve the process but my boss won’t let me speak beyond our team.”“If I spoke to someone outside of my designated group I would fear for my job.”“This is just the culture here. Don’t go beyond your boss even if they are hiding information and putting obstacles in your way.”So we began to talk about the importance of being able to speak up without worrying that we were stepping beyond the company culture. Maybe it was time to change that culture.

Five Ways To Tackle The Fear Of Speaking Up

1. Evaluate Your Leadership Brand

To be able to share their ideas throughout their organizations leaders need to have a high level of credibility. That involves being well thought of, trustworthy and dependable. Our leadership brand reflects how others see us as well as our reputation of being a competent team player. To overcome a fear of speaking up leaders must have a trustworthy reputation. CLICK TO TWEET

2. Construct A Clear and Impactful Message

Another step in empowering leaders to face their fear of speaking up is knowing what they want to say using clear, direct and respectful language. Some questions they can ask themselves could include:
  • What specific issues does my message address?
  • Does the message flow in an organized way?
  • Am I considering the other person’s perspective?
  • What questions might emerge that I should prepare for?
  • Are there any additional facts that need to be part of this discussion?
  • Related: 5 Actions Leaders Take To Plan For Their Next Crossroad

    3. Get Input From Trusted Colleagues

    Take the time to reach out to your co-workers for their suggestions too. Another set of eyes and ears can help you refine your message and the way you want to deliver it. Trusted colleagues might have a “different take” that may make you sound even more credible. They also know you well enough to provide honest feedback with your concerns and give you the pat on the back to push forward.

    4. Target The Decision Makers

    To be successful in speaking up it is critical that we know who the real decision makers are so that we are sharing our thoughts with the right individuals. There is no point is going through this process just to end up talking with someone who doesn’t have the authority to make the final choice.
  • Research who may be involved in the decision.
  • Try to pin point the specific person or team.
  • Verify your target person with your trusted colleagues.
  • If possible and you are not being blocked, consult with your boss.
  • To speak up successfully and make change happen leaders must talk directly to the decision maker. CLICK TO TWEET

    5. Practice Your Presentation

    As with all presentations it is so helpful to practice and zero in on anything that doesn’t flow smoothly. Sometimes the words you write in your message don’t sound natural when you speak them out loud. So to gain confidence and overcome any concerns of speaking up have a dress rehearsal by yourself or with your trusted colleagues. It really pays off. How have you overcome the fear of speaking up? What techniques have worked for you?