How to Transform a Culture of Silence

People would rather suck raw eggs than hold someone accountable. There are profound effects when we fail to speak up in a way that’s direct, honest, and respectful when we have a concern about someone’s performance.

Recently, we attempted to prove this with a study. Out of our approximate 1,100 respondents, 97% identify at least one “career-limiting habit” in themselves. For me, it’s procrastination — and I don’t just procrastinate little tasks. I tend to procrastinate the jobs that I dislike the most.

Don’t we all have some habit we’d like to change? Don’t we all have a habit we’d deem “career-limiting”?

We see this particularly in performance reviews. Three out of four managers say the biggest barrier to advancement is behaviour, not a lack of technical skills. They don’t need you to go back to school —  they need you to change the career-limiting habit(s).

However, these same bosses give you less than a one in ten chance of changing that bad habit. They consider it to be a part of who you are.

It gets worse.

We don’t feel much more optimistic than our bosses. When we recognize a career-limiting habit in ourselves, we only give ourselves a one in three chance we’ll ever be able to change it. Ultimately, we’re held back — not by our skill-set, but by our seemingly unchangeable habits.

The 20th-century approach to change —  “Performance Reviews” — has failed us.

People haven’t changed and they’ve suffered because of it. In fact, 87% of employees have suffered economically because they didn’t change.

They want to change, they know they have to change, but they just can’t.

Why not?

Performance management processes don’t lead to performance improvement.

The health of a relationship, a team, or an organisation is a function of the following: the average lag time between identifying and discussing problems. And remember, those discussions need to be direct, honest, and respectful.

These crucial conversations come easier when we understand these three big ideas.

Idea #1: Some conversations are more crucial than others.

Here’s the deal: 98% of the time, 98% of us do 98% of the right stuff in conversations. That means that 2% of the time, 2% of us do 2% of the wrong stuff. It seems that tiny percentage has a hugely disproportionate impact on our success and the success of the organisation.

Idea #2: The way you start a conversation determines how it will end.

It’s what we call the hazardous half-minute. That first 30 seconds sets the tone of the entire interaction.

Idea #3: We don’t have performance problems as much as we have influence problems.

Rather than simply describing someone’s performance and hope they get better, we need a robust strategy for influencing them (and ourselves) to get better.

Latest Blog Posts

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Improve communication, habits, productivity and more with weekly insights and tips from our authors and experts.

Join our 10,000+ community.