Workout Objective: Speak up when you are not required to, while feeling uncomfortable – improve your confidence and work reputation.
Prerequisite: Read Speaking Up in Meetings – Why and How to Do it first.
Recommended Frequency: Once a week or per group meeting.
- Circle which type of speaking up you will practice.
- Put a reminder on your work calendar to read this workout before your next group meeting.
- Speak up, and add a comment on this workout about your experience.
SPEAKING UP TYPE 1 – ASK A QUESTION
Asking a question is an easy way to speak up. With any question you ask, it’s important to say a pre-cursor to join the conversation. Here are three types of questions you can ask, plus examples of how to ask each:
- Clarification questions: Listen to the discussion and ask a question to clarify something specific about what was just said. This clarifies your understanding, and may even help others who may have the same questions.
Examples: “That was an interesting point. Do you mind clarifying what xxx refers to?…I just want to make sure I understand. When you say xxx, do you mean xyz?”
- Next Step Questions: This is to make sure you understand all the next steps agreed upon in the meeting. Many people appreciate someone asking this question. It helps everyone to leave the meeting on the same page.
Examples: “This was a great discussion. What do you recommend for our next steps?…I really appreciate you taking the time to discuss xyz. What do you need me to do next?…I understand that the key thing you need from me is xyz. Do I understand that correctly? When do you need it by?”
- Probing questions: If someone just said something that you may disagree with, instead of disagreeing — which appears confrontational — ask a probing question highlighting your concerns.
Examples: “I can see where you are headed with this idea. Do you think we need to be concerned about xxx (e.g., risk, privacy, timing).”
SPEAKING UP TYPE 2 – ANSWER A QUESTION
The next best way to speak up easily is to answer a question that is posed to the whole group. For example, someone can say during the discussion – “Does anyone know if Project X is delivered yet? Our effort kind of depends on its completion.”
As long as you know something about this Project X, you can answer this question. For example:
- Communicate what you know: “I heard it’s targeted for May completion…I heard it was complete”
- Offer to find out and get back to the group: “I know the project manager on that project. I will reach out to him to confirm, and then I’ll email everyone with the status of the project.”
While finding out about this project status is not in your job description, this kind of speaking up shows initiative and helps everyone.
SPEAKING UP TYPE 3 – SHARE A FINDING
This type of speaking up requires some preparation. Here is how to speak up by sharing a finding:
- Prior to the group meeting, review the meeting objectives and think about what part of your work may be related. Review your work and prepare some speaking points that may become relevant
- In the group meeting, listen to the discussion and find an opportunity to share a finding from your work that helps the discussion
- Examples: Given an intro like: “Since we are talking about xxx, I want to share something I have been working on that may help. …” Or launch directly into your finding: “I have been working on xxx, so far I have learned …. ” Then say why you think your work is connected to what has been discussed.
These are just 3 ways you can practice speaking up today! As repetition is the mother of all skill, repeat this workout every week and at every group setting, and you will develop this skill over time. I still feel nervous when I speak up at a new group setting. That feeling doesn’t go away. Now, however, I have the tools to know what to do, in spite of feeling nervous. You can too! Good luck.
I look forward to hearing about your experience with this workout in the comments below.
Want to suggest another way to speak up? Great. Add your comments below. Thanks.
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