How To Help Your Employees Overcome Fear and Share More Ideas

Karin Hurt and David Dye are keynote speakers and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. 

Are you looking to encourage more courage and idea-sharing on your team? Join us for the first Careers in Government I.D.E.A. Inspiration Summit on June 23rd from 12-1:30 Pacific and receive a free chapter of Courageous Cultures and the I.D.E.A. Incubator guide. 

When we finish a run of Courageous Cultures programs, we love to sit down and carefully read the hundreds of submissions where participants share their most courageous act at work. 

The moments are filled with pride and hope, of human beings connecting with their values and taking a stand. 

And, consistently, an alarming number of responses involve overcoming a pretty toxic scene.

  • “A doctor was trying to do an experimental procedure I knew could hurt a child (and was against the parent’s consent), so I blocked the door.”
  • “I challenged a chronically passive-aggressive co-worker.”
  • “My boss was exaggerating the numbers to our leadership team. I held fast to the truth. ”
  • “I stood up to a boss who was trying to bully me.”
  • “I called ethics because I was tired of all the screaming.”
  • “And then,  I got retaliated against for calling ethics.”
  • “They asked me to tell the truth about the CEO’s behavior. I did. And, he was fired.”
  • “My integrity clashed with the executive team’s direction, so I quit.” 

Sobering answers, aren’t they? 

When people spend their courage reserves just getting past the bad stuff, there’s no energy left for the courage your business needs most—creative problem solving and micro-innovation. 

Limited Supply 

For most people, innovation takes energy and courage—the courage to be vulnerable, to risk rejection from peers, or invite uncertainty.

Your people can only make that effort a limited number of times before they’re done. The more courage they use to address injustice, toxic leadership, needless politics, or poor decision-making, the less effort they’ll have to spend on what really matters.

If it takes a heroic effort to fight against a caustic culture, you won’t get any of the courage you need to serve your customer or build your business.

For most people, innovation takes energy and courage—the courage to be vulnerable, to risk rejection from peers, or invite uncertainty.

KARIN HURT & DAVID DYE

The Big Three Toxic Behaviors 

The three most toxic behaviors we hear being tolerated (and even rewarded) are shaming, blaming, and intimidation. It’s the chief administrator who projects a list of all her senior leaders in stack-ranked order on the screen and then works her way through the list from the bottom up, sarcastically criticizing them in front of their peers and forcing them to respond, while all their peers laugh nervously while silently praying they’ll be spared next time.

Or the elected official who berates his direct reports for a strategic choice “they made” that didn’t pan out, even though he was the one who made the final call despite the team’s concerns and objections.

Or the manager who insists all requests flow through her, but she’s three weeks behind on her email, who blows a gasket when her direct report responds with his ideas just to keep things moving.

Shame, blame, and intimidation has no place in a Courageous Culture—and yet you might be surprised how frequently we encounter these counter-productive activities, even in organizations that invest in resources and systems to foster courage and innovation. Don’t let one or two bullies undermine your culture.

Start By Asking Yourself a Few Courageous Questions

If you are interested in building a culture where employees feel safe to speak up and share ideas we encourage you and your team to discuss these questions:

  • Why do you want employees to share their ideas?
  • Where do you most need ideas right now?
  • Have you been clear with your team that you want ideas and why?
  • What specific outcomes are you looking to achieve?
  • What scares you? Why?
  • What hard choices must you be prepared to make?
  • Who’s with you? Who’s not? What support do you have? Why?

Avoiding Courage Crushers

  • What processes do you have in place to prevent (and make it easy to report) bullying and harassment?
  • Do we ever let shame, blame, or intimidation show up here?
  • What do you do when a high performer regularly abuses or harasses other people?
  • What courage-crushing behaviors will you have a zero-tolerance for in your organization?
  • Do your managers have the fundamental management and communication skills they need to implement a culture where people share their best ideas? 

Don’t forget to join us for the first  Careers in Government I.D.E.A. Inspiration Summit on June 23rd from 12-1:30 Pacific and receive a free chapter of Courageous Cultures and the I.D.E.A. Incubator guide.

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