Dear Leader:Let me introduce myself: I’m an unexpressed concern inside John’s mind. I’m left over from your last meeting—and many meetings before then—when there wasn’t time, interest, or openness to hearing about me.My friends, other concerns carried by the rest of your team, have also taken up long-term residence in your team’s minds. We’re a quiet but mighty group.

  • Megan is carrying around a burning question you haven’t made time to be asked.
  • Sarah has a serious mistake she’s been waiting to tell you. The longer she waits, the more costly it’s going to be.  
  • Nick has a very discouraged reaction to your latest contract decision made without his input.
  • Kristin is glowing with a brilliant idea to save money in IT discovered by one of her programmers. You don’t know it, yet she’s already shared it with her running partner in Finance.  
  • Isaac has been dissatisfied with your team’s collaboration, and he’s ready to leave for another job.

Your team members are first-hand witnesses to your blind spots that they keep unshared with you unless you ask. We’re all stuff you probably would want to know.At the end of the day, we leave the office with your team, unspoken, feeling neglected. Some of us get discussed with friends and family, feeling better just being shared safely.  But some of us keep your team awake at night, tossing and turning wondering if you’ll ask what’s going on with your team, if you’ll listen, and if you care?We didn’t start out contained and quiet. We remember when you hired us as talent, excited for our skills, experiences, judgment, and professionalism. We thought for sure you would ask your team about us—their questions and their views. We hoped you would ask when you didn’t know answers and invite your team to speak up to share us.Now you wrap up your meetings with the familiar litany of closers:So is that about it for this week?  Anyone got any thing else? Any questions?  Great! Well, since that’s all, see everyone next week!But you’ve stopped making time for us, stopped inquiring, stopped listening. We want to come forward but you don’t ask, you don’t invite, and you don’t make it safe for us.We know you’re not a mind reader—and we haven’t seen a leader who is—so we thought we’d leave you with a few suggestions.Ask your team members for their views. We tend to stay unspoken until you ask your team about us. Yes, that includes their feedback, great ideas, mistakes, problems, and critical stuff—and oh yes—the truth. Welcome and invite us. If you don’t invite us and keep your team safe, we’ll stay quiet.Make room for us. Don’t rush through your meetings with your team. We can tell when you’re moving swiftly, cautiously, dodging, and staying at a lofty level. Make room in your agenda for us unless you don’t want to hear us. But how does your team bring up the non-agenda stuff if you don’t state an interest in and don’t make time to bring us up?Listen. When you ask a question and invite your team members to express themselves, pause and listen. When asked sincerely, humbly and consistently, your team will trot us out and you’ll be better better informed while we make our debut.Watch your reactions.  Your team recognizes stares, threats, rolling eyes, irritation, and pretty much any disinterested or minimizing reaction. And then we stay away.Now we’re a growing collection of what others know but aren’t sharing with you. We range from information and ideas that could help you succeed to what could also lead to your failure. Why are we such a contained bunch? Well, simply, because we need you to lead in ways that make room and make it safe for us to be spoken.