OKA has worked for years to boost collaboration within teams—teaching leaders and colleagues to co- create and nurture environments that are safe to speak. Being willing to speak up, share ideas, offer suggestions, risk being wrong—these behaviors require collaboration and an atmosphere within which people feel safe and supported.
6 Safe-to-Speak Practices
The following suggestions—a six-pack of safety—are relatively simple actions that a person or group can take to make any system feel safer to speak. While leaders heavily influence a team’s atmosphere, the following suggestions are actions that anyone can take, regardless of formal power or authority.
- Meeting attendees should sit in a circle or around a table, so each attendee can see and hear clearly every other group member. When you can, remove barriers that separate you from the group and attendees from each other.
- Suggest a group norm of turning off cell phones and/or hand-held devices, which often serve as distractors and interruptions.
- Ask questions to open up the conversation and collect as much data as possible:
- What ideas/opinions do you have about this issue?
- How would this idea or approach impact you?
- What other approaches could work?
- Who would be willing/able to take on this item?
- Can you say more about that?
- Check-in with meeting attendees on an ongoing basis to make sure you know their feelings, views, and opinions. In addition, check-in with meeting attendees after the meeting to establish and strengthen a personal, friendly connection.
- When listening to someone, connect with his/her experience. If you agree with a view or opinion, say so. If you don’t agree, still affirm their viewpoint or feeling. “I understand that you are unhappy with the direction this project is taking; I know how frustrating this meeting must be.”
- Offer to help an attendee or sub-group—and more powerful still, ask for help from someone or a sub-group. The compassion communicated by an offer of help and the vulnerability shown by asking for help both strengthen interpersonal connections and lead to more and better collaboration and contribute to a safe-to-speak environment.
Insight to Action
Can you take one of these actions in your next meeting or team interaction to help create an environment that is more collaborative, inclusive and in which people feel safer to speak?
Click here to learn more about OKA’s Safe-to-Speak training, and/or watch the following video, which details this workshop and an OKA exercise designed specifically for the popular topic. For more details, contact Aaron Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-591-6284.