Forbes featured a powerful article on Four Ways Your Leadership May Be Encouraging Unethical Behavior. Author and consultant Ron Carucci discussed ways leaders might unintentionally be encouraging poor choices resulting in serious problems, including matters of ethics and misconduct in organizations.His first point is leaders might be making it psychologically unsafe for others to speak up. He insists organizations must create a culture in which people freely speak up, including so employees can express even controversial issues. He contends some leadership actions may actually dissuade the courage needed to raise ethical concerns. Our experiences at The Discussables Group tell us the same.Leaders hold lofty views of the safety they createIn the Talking About What Matters℠ workshop we help leaders understand their roles in making it safe for everyone to speak up. During or after workshops leaders admit they formerly have carried around beliefs such as:“I’m not an intimidating person…”“People feel comfortable talking to me…”“We do a pretty good job of talking openly around here…”“I regularly ask others for feedback, their input, and what they think…”Really?Are you sure?We understand organizations are challenged to create an environment where people feel safe to speak up. Typically, 68% of workshop participants tell us they have important information, ideas, and concerns they do not share with their managers.  Why don’t employees speak up? Workshop participants consistently tell us speaking up typically is not invited nor honored. Even more frequently, speaking up is not modeled nor is it championed by leaders. Hope as they might, it doesn’t really work when a senior leader makes a broad sweeping comment, “If you have any feedback or suggestions, share it your manager.”  People generally don’t respond to those grand illusions.It’s far more important and effective when each leader authentically and routinely asks:

  • “What feedback do you have for me?”
  • “What concerns do you have for the project, our strategy, our customers?
  • “What are we not discussing that we should be?

And then listens. And resists the inclination to respond with any reaction other than respect. Don’t judge, refute, disclaim, minimize, or rationalize.After all, what leader wants to be 32% uninformed about financials? Mistakes? Compliance? Employee concerns? Safety? Or great ideas and opportunities?What organization can afford the silence?