Why oh why can’t we just say what we think. How many times have you sat in a meeting, or had a conversation and not said what is really on your mind? Unless you are one of the rare individuals that live in total integrity and authenticity, then I guarentee the answer is many times.
What the hell is wrong with us? Why don’t we speak up and say what’s on our mind for the sake of the goal, team or results? Why do we hide our thoughts and feelings?
The reason we do this is fear. The fear of upsetting someone, or making a fool of ourselves. You see, we don’t want to rock the boat, stand out or look like a trouble maker. We certainly don’t want be appear passive agressive. So we try to fit in, please and conform. We nod, smile, make agreeable grunts and may try to influence. More often than not, we leave the meeting, beating ourselves up for not speaking out, or leave ready to moan, gossip and bitch.
Our need to be accepted and liked is in our DNA. Our innate desire to be accepted and connected is based on survival. Our greatest fear is to be rejected. As we evolved as human beings, those that were good at connection, building relationships and working as a team, were accepted into the group or community. It gave us the advantage to survive, thrive and procreate. Those that were unable to build those relationships were less likely to find a mate, and essentially rejected. Therefore, we passed on those genes to our future generations.
Those survival genes of acceptance over rejection cause us to adapt, conform and sometimes hide what we really think or feel. The biggest issue is that as humans we are also genetically wired to spot a fake, or someone who is’nt genuine. So the act of hiding, masking and conforming to stop rejection, actually leads us to be mistrusted and rejected.
In the business environment, we see an odd phenomenon happening. Rather than calling out the fakes, masked and political players, we tend to join them to beat them at their own game. Instead of everyone being open, honest, and in pursuit of the greater goal or vision, we all become part of a game of protection. Energy is spent on agendas, politics and second guessing. We stop saying what is really on our mind and being authentic, and actually go against our natural instincts of connection and authenticity. We race to the bottom.
So how do we stop this cycle?
As leaders, we need to make a strategic decision to enage in healthy challenge. Before we can get to that place, we need to create an environment of trust. It means that we need to literally name the elephant in the room and call out the behaviours we see. We need to call out that people are showing up with their own agendas, silos and politics and that is harming the results. Everyone needs to lean into vulnerability based trust. The behaviours we have learned at work need to be unlearned, and that takes time, effort and courage, and requires everyone to lean in too. Unless you, as a team or organisation can break the cycle of shame, blame, hiding and masking, then you will never achieve the results you want.
The five behaviors of a cohesive team is one programme that can support your business on this journey. Know that it is a journey, and unlearning what has been learned culturally for years is difficult, but oh so beneficial.