Image of a young woman wearing a blue top with hands covering her mouth preventing her from speaking Last December I ran four of my Mastering Hard Conversations programs with a diverse group of leaders – two in a government agency and two in a not-for-profit organisation. Participants shared stories of stressful workplaces, destructive conflict, and dysfunctional, poor performing teams. A common theme was the failure of people to share their voice – to say what needed to be said when it needed to be said.

Let’s talk about silence…

As I wrote in Mastering Hard Conversations, when people choose silence – rather than sharing their voice – organisations lose. There is no doubt that in some situations, finding your voice can be confronting – for example: when you lack positional power, or another person has an intimidating presence. In these situations, silence is the easy way to go. But silence often comes at a cost – a sense of disappointment that you didn’t speak up, or a sense of resentment that bubbles away inside you. Or your failure to speak up may see the team make a poor decision that costs the organisation dearly. In her book The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmonson shares the story of the failure of one of the NASA engineers to speak up in a critical meeting to alert people of an issue with the Space Shuttle Columbia. His silence ultimately resulted in the deaths of seven astronauts. Silence has consequences.

Sharing perspectives can be scary – it takes courage, but it’s important that our leaders and their teams become good at it.

My three takeaways from the workshops:

  1. Leaders must prioritise their own development, honing their ability to navigate difficult conversations. They must model advanced listening, questioning, and giving and receiving feedback skills.
  2. Moreover, leaders must invest in their teams’ growth, fostering the cultivation of these essential communication skills. Neglecting this ensures that teams will always fall short of their potential – an outcome no good leader wants.
  3. Teams need to create norms where people are expected and encouraged to speak up and share their concerns. They need to create environments where giving feedback (both affirmative and developmental) is how the team works.

If you’re committed to realising your own and your team’s potential, take a look at some of the programs and services we offer here at Balanced Curve. And then contact us to explore how we can work together.


Mark Rosenberg
Director, Balanced Curve

Rachael McDiarmid