The other day, I found myself in a meeting with a number of colleagues, discussing a complex topic. Whilst there were many different views around the room, there was (seemingly) general consensus on a particular approach – except for me. I strongly felt a different view, and decided that it was important that I share this view, even though I was the Voice of One. Some folks feel more comfortable than others to speak out when they do not agree with the consensus, but here’s why it matters.
Innovation comes from questioning, not conforming: “If you always do what you’ve always done then you will always get what you always got.” Whether this quote came from Henry Ford, Mark Twain or Albert Einstein, it rings true more than ever in this fast-paced world of technology and change. Holding a different view or questioning the status quo used to be frowned on, but these days, putting forward a fresh perspective to the group is generally encouraged to find the best possible solution. Don’t feel afraid to raise your hand and share your observations!
A strongly held view is worth sharing: If you think about the thing in life that you feel REALLY strongly about, it’s bound to stir up your emotions. Animal cruelty, the beauty of nature, the latest victory from your football team or the perfect ice-cream sundae, whatever you feel REALLY passionate about is uniquely important to you. This equally applies at work. In a discussion or meeting, if you REALLY feel strongly on a point, sharing that view, and the reasons behind it will enrich the discussion. As a passionate advocate on a topic, you strongly-held opinion could enrich a discussion. Be careful to balance subjective (emotional) views with objective (factual) information.
You knowledge is worth sharing: I’m a very opinionated person (colleagues, friends and family nod in unison!) I’m never afraid to share a view, especially if it’s a topic on which I feel confident to talk. But others might feel less confident, especially when faced with senior colleagues or managers. In fact, what most of those of us at management level are looking for is the rich, broad, informed debate that comes from engaging all participants in a meeting. Even if you’re the most junior person in the room, you are there for a purpose, and your views are as valid as everyone else present! Don’t be afraid to share an idea (or if you’re really shy, make sure you share the idea with your manager 1-2-1.)
Opinions evolve with greater knowledge: If the boss walks into a meeting, expresses their view and everybody simply nods, the decision may or may not be the best outcome. If everyone in the room listens to those who share a view then collectively form a new view, with the greater sharing of knowledge, the decision may well be better. This is not to say that everyone needs to share a view on every item (the meeting organiser should consider the RACI model when selecting participants.) But, multiple views and information sources make for more robust outcomes.
So what was the outcome of the meeting I attended? After a really healthy discussion, we agreed that in fact, the topic warranted greater consideration, including the original view, but also incorporating my view. Whilst we now have additional actions as a result of the meeting, we all feel more confident in achieving the goal. So whilst I started out as the Voice of One, after the meeting, my view was ultimately shared by the group. Don’t shy away from being the Voice of One – step forward and share your knowledge, and ensure that through your input, you help your colleagues to reach the best decision.