One of the traps of successful leadership is being surrounded with “yes men.” Your team could hesitate to challenge your decisions, no matter how bad or mistaken they may be.
Hearing what others rally think can give you a valuable perspective. Nevertheless, it’s not really in human nature to invite others to inform you how—and why—you’re wrong. Human nature is such that we all want to hear nice things about ourselves and be reassured that we’re on the right track.
“When in doubt, keep your mouth shut,” indeed
Employees are terrified to speak up owing to the need for self-preservation. The apparent risks of speaking up are very personal and immediate, especially in comparison to some potential benefits to your organization someday. Employees impulsively play it safe.
Even if your employees are more knowledgeable, they may think twice before giving you candid feedback, especially if you’ve demonstrated tendencies of being vindictive, penalizing—even reprimanding publicly or sacking—anybody with a dissenting view.
Disciplining employees who raise problems only exacerbates the problematical frame of mind around a successful leader. It promotes the toxic culture of unquestioned power. As the American general and diplomat Colin Powell reminded in a famous speech at Sears headquarters, “The day your people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either is a failure of leadership.”
Idea for Impact: Cultivate a culture in which psychological safety thrives.
Create a work environment where your employees aren’t afraid to speak up and express their concerns. People will stick their neck out only if they sense a low psychological threat level.