speak-your-mind-blog-article-image-9-jan-2017-resizedI’ll never forget the day I had some cabbage stuck in my teeth. Yep, you guessed it, highly embarrassing! I was at a business event with a whole host of people I was keen to meet and impress and, having finished lunch, engaging in conversation with the other nine people around the table. I’d done my usual thing, sat at a table where I knew no-one so I could get to know some people, learn from them and about them. The afternoon seminar was about to start so one by one we slowly finished our conversations, stood up and casually made our way from the table - Me being one of the last to leave. As I turned to walk away, a gentleman called me back and said “Excuse me Sir, may I have a word with you regarding something you said earlier that I found interesting”, “Sure” I said turning back to face him. “Let’s grab a coffee to go with us he said”, in order to take me aside of the crowd before telling me - “To be honest, the only reason I’ve drawn you aside is to let you know that you have cabbage in your teeth! I’m sure that if you saw me in a similar position you would let me know too”. Truth be told, I was mortified, thanked him and scooted off to sort myself out in the mensroom.

I learnt a few things that day;

  • There were eight other people around the table that saw my predicament but did nothing.
  • I was NOT the kind of person that would take someone aside and tell them they had cabbage in their teeth.
  • Speaking our mind, or “blurting something out” applies to many other aspects of life, not just dining.

Here are three reasons why you should speak your mind:

Reason #1 - That “Gut feeling” is usually right

Over the last 25 years in business I’ve found that my gut feeling is usually more accurate than my head, and the more I’ve followed that instinct by “speaking out”, I’ve made better decisions. Sometimes we have a “gut feeling” regarding a client relationship, a team situation or interaction with a colleague. It could be something they say, a passing comment, some body language and something in the past I would have ignored. Now, I never ignore it, I’ll call in with the customer again just to check everything is OK, I’ll ask a probing question to the team or have coffee with the colleague just to make sure all is well. Usually, my gut is right. Try following yours today and see for yourself.

Reason #2 – “It’s nothing” normally means “there is something”.

I’ve lost count of the number of times a colleague has turned to me and said “Oh, it’s nothing”. Most good leaders follow up with a probing question, but few push for the honest reply. I used to be one too, but now I speak my mind. The fact is the follow up question we usually use like “What were you going to say?” or “Go on tell me? You know you can tell me anything.” Is usually replied with things like “Oh it’s nothing, just me being silly” or “Nah forget it, I’ll talk to you again when we have more time” or a whole host of other similar answers.

Today I press for the answer, today I blurt it out. On one occasion I remember closing the door on a colleague and telling them “We’re not leaving this office until you tell me what’s on your mind”. Press for the answer, get them to sit back down again, probe as much as you can. They are about to make themselves very vulnerable by saying something that’s on their mind and it’s your job to help them feel comfortable and say it. I’ve found that making myself vulnerable too by sharing stories where I’ve been in a similar situation is a great help in making them feel they can share.

Reason #3 – Ask people for the truth and they’ll tell you.

It never ceases to amaze me how few companies ask their customers why they closed the account or stopped buying from them. I know sales people that never ask why they didn’t win the business. I remember asking for a meeting with the Head of Procurement at a Local Authority when our tender to supply had been unsuccessful. At our meeting I learnt that I was the only supplier out of over fifty who had tendered who had asked for such a meeting. I gained huge insight into the scoring system they used, the weaknesses in our environmental policy and what we needed to do to be successful next time.

For some reason, the large majority of business people will not blurt it out, speak their mind and ask for the truth. Try it today, have the courage to ask the questions and take time to learn from the answers you’ll get.


Author - Phylip Morgan, Network Group MD