Happy Friday from Munich, Germany. I’m here for a couple of weeks of work and a bit of fun, practicing the Work-Life Blending and WFX (Work From Everywhere – the X marks the spot) that I wrote about in my most recent book, Curve Benders!
For today’s Nour Noon Nugget, I want to talk about an important topic: If you see something, say something! As you may be aware, I didn’t come up with that catchy phrase; The U.S. Homeland Security did, referring to their campaign to get all of us to speak up if we observe something out of the ordinary. They encourage a sense of awareness and taking action to report concerns to local law enforcement in an effort to “protect your family, neighbors, and our country.”
During several recent client coaching calls, I’ve found myself referencing the same advice within leadership teams (**with a caveat). A leadership team is ideally a close knit group of colleagues with unique and highly complementary skills, knowledge, and behaviors that move the organization forward in a positive and constructive manner. Before you roll your eyes, let me preface the above comment with the admission that I’m a realist – what I wrote above is ideal but not always the case. We all know many teams that are territorial, highly political, and even outright dysfunctional.
Beyond the few bad apples that put leadership teams right up there with our disdain for a divisive and partisan Congress, I want to focus on good people with good intentions. These are hard-working leaders trying to make a difference in how they show up every day.
The challenge is that you do yourself and your colleagues a disservice if you don’t speak up when you observe a bad behavior! For whatever reasons you don’t want to get into it (being disliked for confronting others, creating drama, or making others uncomfortable are the excuses I get most often), what you’re really doing are:
- Enabling continued bad behaviours by others
- Creating a cultural norm of “just go along to get along!” and not one that’s unafraid of retribution.
- Learning and growing in your experiences, and not raising the bar on colleagues to become the best version of themselves.
** Here is the caveat I mentioned earlier. You need to learn how to navigate this difficult approach as its filled with professional mines. Two resources to check out and learn more:
- Friend and former Marshall Goldsmith MG100 colleague, Molly Tschang has created Say it Skillfully.
- Friend, Thinkers50 colleague, and HBS Professor, Amy Edmondson has written extensively about Psychological Safety.
What speaking up really takes is courage and a commitment – courage to know and act when others are wrong, and commitment to becoming the best version of yourself by creating boundaries, helping others learn and grow, and contributing to a culture that’s positive, constructive, and fulfilling in the work that we choose to do. Anyone can stay quiet and not say anything. Worse yet, you can always quit your job. Mature professionals demonstrate courage and commitment to say something when they see something to protect themselves, their teams, and their culture!