EP 21: Advice From a CEO: Great Leaders Make it Safe for People to Speak Up

by | Jun 8, 2021 | Podcast

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This week’s episode of Reflect Forward: Advice from a CEO is about how great leaders make it safe for employees and teammates to speak up.

Being an employee-owned company, we at StoneAge encourage people to speak up…keeping it real is what we call it, and it’s part of our Own It Mindset, which is our set of values and leadership principles.

I believe we do a pretty good job of creating a safe space for people to voice their opinions and concerns, but no matter what we do, not everybody feels comfortable. Most of this fear is unwarranted, but we certainly have made mistakes, intentionally or unintentionally shutting people down or minimizing their comments. Another mistake we have made is overemphasizing the delivery of the message.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the delivery. Now, the delivery of a message is important; the world is about influence, and everybody wants to be seen, heard, and valued, wishing to see their ideas and thoughts put into action. Doing this requires influence.  And so often, a good message gets lost in poor delivery. Getting hung up on the harshness of someone’s words and tone, there have been many times it took me a while to hear what was in the feedback because I was so bristled by the way it came out.

If the pandemic taught me anything, we need to be more understanding and open to other people’s ideas and opinions, so I went on a mission to care less about the delivery and more about the message. When I am triggered, I examine why to move through my emotional response quickly and get to the heart of what matters…the message.

In this episode, I give my tips on making it safe for people to speak up while controlling your emotional responses. Then I address an adjacent topic in the question of the episode. One of my employees asked, “Kerry, I see that you are talking a lot about being cool, calm, and collected, and it’s noticeable at work. And I wanted to understand what you do to keep yourself from getting amped up.”

Great question, and I am so pleased that my effort is paying off. Being cool, calm, and collected is my 2021 mantra. While I certainly misstep from time to time, I am finding that be intentional about my emotional responses is helping me stay grounded. Tips that I share include: thinking about how I want the person interacting with me to feel when they walk away, being intentional about the way I show up, getting exercise to reduce stress, and reframing the issue in the big picture rather than focusing on the minutia to keep things in perspective.

Don’t miss this episode for more insight and ideas on how to be a leader who creates safety and remain level-headed.

Like this? Check out my blog on how to be more candid.

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