10 years ago I was in a meeting with my boss and corporate quality leaders to discuss the hiring of a new quality engineer that would replace me as I moved into a new role in the organization. The leaders were discussing the qualifications that were needed for this role and I was not in alignment with the direction they were taking. I spoke up and said “Isn’t this an Operations role and not a Corporate Quality role?” In the next moments, the absolute silence felt like an eternity. I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but I knew I spoke up and it was not taken well.
Some time later, my boss called me into his office and told me “You shouldn’t have said that”. What I don’t remember is any coaching I got about what would have been a better approach, because I didn’t get any. I can only remember the moment of devastation – “You shouldn’t have said that”. Whatever happened during the meeting where I spoke up and the follow up meeting was a blur, but hearing nothing and then getting admonished had an impact for many years. I stopped speaking up and voicing my opinion and played safe.
I ultimately left that organization because they were no longer supporting my growth to impact on a greater scale and found it in another company. The new company allowed me to take risks, show my technical potential and grow my essential skills.
How can we change the trend for both the individual and the leaders who are not prepared to manage these situations and are causing more devastation?
For the individual, I offer you these thoughts:
- Start regular 1-2-1’s with your manager and include a) Immediate topics to align on, b) Mid term topics to align on approaches to projects, c) Long term topics to evolve your leadership and technical skills. Some organizations don’t have a formal program, but you can manage “up” and take control of your career
- Find a mentor or business coach. The mentor is a long term relationship that will ask you questions to help you through your challenges & opportunities. A coach will help you on short term topics to build a new skill. You should decide on what you need to take control of your career
For the business leader and your team:
- Ask yourself if you have the capacity or capability to serve your team and elevate their technical and essential skills. Are you having regular 1-2-1’s with them? If not, have you ever considered a partner who can work with you to build the skills you need in your team
- Ask yourself honestly if you have the skills on your team that will sustain your business through rapid change or will this be what holds you back? Do you know who to turn to, to help with this?
- Do you have people on your team who were high performers and who are now disengaged or behaving differently and don’t know what to do or ignore? Are their lost skills and lost voices in your organization that may now hinder your business?
High Performing individuals can do amazing things for your organization, but they must be supported with a long-term vision for growth. If you’ve ever had an idea met with silence, you know the feeling of being swallowed by uncertainty. As a leader, all it takes is a single voice to break that silence and restore confidence.