Getting people to speak their truth in workplaces isn’t easy. Most people have been conditioned to guard themselves carefully. They are cautious and often reluctant to bring tough issues to the table or to give a boss or co-workers candid feedback about problematic behaviors. Reasons range from an intimidating boss, hostile work environment, hidden or political agendas to our natural self-protection (and/or self interest) as humans.
We pay a high price in business when tough subjects are avoided. Fearful employees walking around on eggshells are typically disengaged, unmotivated, and dissatisfied. Games of masquerade and pretending all is well prevail. Because tough issues are avoided– collaboration, improved communication, relationships and team productivity go by the wayside. Frankly, in my career coaching experience, most talented or high performing individuals will soon seek greener pastures in this environment.
As a team coach and facilitator, I try to help foster “dialogue” to transform this unhealthy dynamic. Simply put, dialogue is a conversational style that can dissolve barriers and fosters collaboration, trust, accountability and partnership. Dialogue is possible when there is trust, mutual respect and a commitment to inquiry and understanding. Dialogue can be a critical tool in workplaces to promote team learning and finding “shared meaning” even in conflict and disagreement.
Bringing in a skilled “outside” third party objective coach and/or facilitator can help foster dialogue and bring safety and skills to your workplace. They can help:
- To create safety for participants to surface the “elephants in the room”. Skilled facilitators can create conditions where people feel safe to speak truth. Whenever there are issues/topics that team’s avoid I find blocked creativity, collaboration and learning. Avoidance isn’t a strategy. In my experience avoidance only makes things worse. The issues don’t go away they just bubble up in unhealthy ways like water cooler backbiting, rumors, and pent up frustration that eventually “blows” and good people leaving.
- Teach your team healthy interpersonal skills like active listening. Teams can get mired in conflict without listening. Real listening with an intention to understand one another vs. debate or out argue one another is rare. Listening doesn’t just happen magically. Most people need to be taught listening skills due to the human tendency of justifying and defending vs. truly trying to understand the other’s perspective. Listening is critical for a healthy workplace and to be able to get real with one another.
- To promote inquiry through asking the right questions and promoting a climate of curiosity. Skilled coaches and facilitators know the right questions to ask (often the “unasked” questions) to promote balanced participation and reveal the thinking behind positions or ideas. Facilitators can help surface and make assumptions visible for all while challenging participants to suspend judgment while they explore the issue. Learning can then happen through inquiry, reflection and dialogue leaving a team stronger and better able to tackle future tough subjects.
- Develop team norms to continue fostering learning, dialogue and shared meaning when tacking difficult issues and challenges. Few workplace teams spend enough time figuring out how to work together more creatively and collaboratively. They get sucked into the myth that workplace meetings should be “task” focused. High performing teams spend as much time on task as they do fostering effective communication and teamwork.
An outside expert facilitator can help your team develop better group process and meeting ground rules to foster accountability and healthy productive meetings. Another benefit—meetings with skilled facilitators are rarely boring as usually there is healthy debate and open exchange of ideas and feedback! It’s not uncommon for me to hear participants describe well-facilitated meetings as “the best we ever had”. Call me at 360 682 5807 — I can help you make your next executive retreat the best yet!