How to hear from — and value — all voices

Guest post from industry favorite Tim Mousseau

Thank you to guest author Tim Mousseau for sharing a few highlights with the SITE community based on two sessions he led earlier this year for SITE Chapter Leaders.

Tim is a speaker, consultant, and researcher who helps organizations build safe business cultures. You can learn more about Tim and his “Create Safe” work here.

Regardless of your chapter's structure, size, or mission, hearing your people's voices is vital to creating fulfilling experiences. Your members often know the solutions to any issues you face. They also contain a multitude of creative insights that can elevate our experiences. The concern is that when asking members to speak up openly and authentically, you might run into barriers that can cause them to shut up and shut down.

Some of your members might fear speaking up due to concerns about ramifications in their social or professional networks. Others might have tried to speak up before, only to feel like their voice was unheard, ignored, or dismissed. Others might have never received training or guidance on advocating for their opinion. The list of barriers can go on, made all that more complex by existing relationships, your chapter culture, varying personality styles, and several other factors. 

Your people's voices can be the secret to enhancing your already great chapter experience. When seeking honest feedback and creative input, here are a few tools to help overcome obstacles and encourage your members to keep speaking up.

Don't leave people hanging

If people are willing to share their voices, we must recognize that we heard them and respond to their ideas. Also, recognize that responding does not mean we must always take the exact action someone might desire. Whether we can act on people's opinions, we must ensure they know their voice was heard and their idea has been considered.

You also don't need the "perfect" response when validating someone's voice. Our brains love it when we receive information that removes ambiguity. As a leader, owning that you might not have all the answers or resources to advance an idea is okay. Sometimes, simply validating that you've heard a concern and are investing time in learning more is enough. 

If someone speaks up, we should keep them informed as we deliberate or act upon their idea. This is also true even if we cannot progress on an opinion. Further, validating people's voices is vital no matter how small someone's feedback might seem. If someone has taken the time to speak up, this feedback matters to them, and we need to honor their effort.

It is also important to publicly acknowledge the voices you hear, no matter your ultimate decision. Publicly recognizing people's ideas encourages others to speak up and inspires people with similar concerns to share their perspectives. 

Publicly reward divergent opinions

Hearing critical feedback or ideas that challenge us to change might elicit pause or resistance.

When people are willing to share ideas that go against our current norms, especially if these ideas are instrumental in helping us grow, it is worth acknowledging the courage it took for someone to speak against the grain.

As in the last point, recognizing the effort it takes to voice ideas that might go against popular opinion can encourage others to speak up. When you do this, especially with divergent ideas, you also might better understand how many other members agree with these new ideas. 

For this point and the last, always be mindful of the person who shared their voice. Before publicly acknowledging their feedback, ask them if you are okay with doing so. If someone desires privacy, ask them if they are okay with you sharing their insights anonymously, to inspire further conversation. 

Use the right tools at the right time

Everyone responds differently to prompts and communication channels. Some people relish interpersonal requests for opinions but tune out formal feedback collection methods like surveys. Others might fear directly sharing their opinion and prefer anonymized feedback methods.

Adopt a variety of tools to seek out feedback. When considering your tools, leverage your chapter leaders' relationships, networks, and skill sets. Each of your chapter leaders likely has different levels of formal and informal relationships with your various members. Where one member might feel uncomfortable responding to one leader's request for feedback, they might feel okay talking with another leader where a rooted relationship already exists. When collecting feedback, no one leader should be responsible for seeking out every voice. 

Ask fewer questions

Whether you are seeking feedback in a one-on-one conversation or sending out a formal survey following an event, ask fewer questions. Less is more. People are exhausted by overly long surveys, especially if their responses have no actual impact on future decisions. This is also true in interpersonal interactions. 

When you intentionally seek feedback, no matter the channels you use, ask fewer, more targeted questions. Although you might be covering fewer topics, the responses you will receive will likely be more robust and offer better insights into how to create more meaningful change. 

Thank you to Business Events Australia for supporting the online chapter leader training sessions with Tim! 

Written by

SITE Staff


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