Speaking Up: How to Foster a Courageous Culture

Is your team speaking up to share ideas, best practices, and advocate for your customers?


  • “Why am I the only one who finds these issues? What’s wrong with my managers? Why can’t they see this stuff and fix it?”
  • “We’ve got so many ways for people to submit their ideas, why don’t more people use them?”
  • “My direct reports are always in the field talking to employees, but all we get is a bunch of fluff.”


Have you ever found yourself or another leader asking these questions? We hear these frustrations from executives all the time.

What’s really interesting?

When you talk to the front-line employees in these same organizations, you’ll often hear statements like:

  • “The only way to get the customer what they need is to use this workaround. I’ve been doing it for years, which is why my customers love me. It’s not standard procedure, though, so I keep my head down and hope my boss doesn’t notice.”
  • “They say they want our ideas, but nothing ever changes. I’ve stopped bothering.”
  • “Whenever a big wig from HQ comes to do a focus group, my boss warns us to only talk about the good stuff so we don’t look like we’re complaining.”



Overcoming the Disconnect

This disconnect stifles innovation, problem-solving, and delivering breakthrough results for your customers. Your success depends on quickly incorporating the best ideas from across your business, on understanding what’s not working and how to make it better.

But what if you never hear what’s working well and what’s broken?

For many companies, it’s not senior leaders who fear making the big “go, no go” choices that stifle progress, but the exponential effect of thousands of small opportunities missed because people didn’t speak up when they saw something stupid or didn’t share their idea.

The best practices languish, unshared and unspoken. Why?

Because people are often discouraged from saying the wrong thing and not rewarded for saying the right thing—so they say nothing. The consequences can be dire: customers leave, problems multiply like the heads of a hydra, and employees lose heart.

The tragic truth is that most of the time, leaders think they’re creating an open environment that encourages employees to speak up, and are surprised when they learn that employees hold back. Employees have ideas and want to be heard. Leadership wants to hear them.

Too often, however, employees and leaders both feel that no one cares about making things better.


Welcome to the World of Courageous Cultures

Instead of safe silence and frustrated leaders, what if you had a courageous culture? A culture where:

  • Teams at every level of your business continually ask, “How can we make this better?”
  • Leaders have the courage to ask what’s not working and really listen.
  • Everyone is confident to raise their hand on behalf of the customer and put purpose above politics.


What does it mean to have a courageous culture?

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