Fostering growth in your employees and encouraging them to speak up and find their voice is key to cultivating a community of problem solvers. Helping your employees to find their voice is one of the most powerful leadership techniques you can employ. Once everyone in your organization feels able and encouraged to speak up, your team will be full of integrated, contributing members who feel welcome and supported.
As we write in Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition, “Leaders can create methods or forums that allow others to communicate their needs, problems and issues. This creates a sense of togetherness and a feeling that we are “heard” in the organization.” In this book, we spoke with leaders across Chicago who make their employees feel “heard”.
Linda Mallers, CEO and Founder of FarmLogix describes the way that she helps her employees find their voice: “We have a staff meeting every Tuesday and everyone has the floor. I manage it very entrepreneurially. I let others run the show.”
As more organizations begin to adopt a leadership approach that puts people first—which we coin “peopleship”— the archetype of a leader shifts away from one of command and control. Letting others ‘run the show’, as Linda describes it, facilitates this transfer of power from top down to bottom up. Helping others find their voice encourages employees to feel ownership over the organization and the problems that the company is solving, which in turn encourages them to become a part of the solution.
Pete Kadens, then at SoCore Energy and now CEO of GTI, encourages his employees to have a voice and share their opinions by speaking about something they care about: “Every week we have someone present a topic of their choice for five to seven minutes.” Encouraging employees to share their passions allows employees to speak up in a safe, welcoming environment, fostering a mentality of openness and acceptance throughout the organization.
To foster a feeling of ownership, we encourage employing a practice of disciplined freedom, wherein leaders give their employees the space to do their jobs by using a hands-off approach. Given the right level of disciplined freedom, employees will feel able to speak up and use their voice and their ability to choose their own path to discuss and even solve problems that the leader may not know exist. Leaders can facilitate employee engagement by providing employees with the guidance they need to succeed and the safety net they need to not be afraid to fail.