After the picture that’s been painted the past two weeks, I’m sure it’s become clear that a culture of silence can be more than just a little unhealthy… It can be deadly, especially for employee morale. Lack of clear expectations and closed communication underpin a number of the factors related to low employee motivation. Moreover, I regularly hear people who are struggling with their own motivation tell me that they did not grow up talking about their feelings. Lack of connected constructive conversations presents many challenges for us. So, let’s work vigilantly to ensure that we change unhealthy cultures in our offices and homes. Together, we can make hard conversations easier and take Key Steps to really…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
  1. Establish clear, measurable targets with clear lines of accountability. Clarity enables success, fuels motivation and informs accountability. Make sure that this happens both at work and at home. Co-creating goals and – where necessary – the path to completing them is important. People are significantly more likely to hold themselves accountable when they are included in the goal setting process. It is also much more likely that communication and feedback will happen when there is clarity on who is responsible for what, by when and according to what standards.
  2. Give regular and constructive feedback. I continually hear employees complaining that they don’t receive enough feedback, so don’t wait for the annual review. Practise giving feedback regularly – 60 second bursts every other day works well and creates a new habit that has the power to transform culture. It is important that everyone learn how to give constructive feedback as well as how to receive feedback without becoming defensive. The same guidelines apply at home. Talk often and with positive intent to inspire growth and development.It is also important to keep in mind that regular feedback means telling those you appreciate and love just how much you value them. There is a useful rule to follow here, the 3:1 rule. This means you need to catch them getting it right (and give specific positive feedback) three times as often as you catch them needing correction. This will ensure that people don’t feel demotivated and like they never get anything right. If you want us to work with your team to enable alignment, collaboration and constructive communication, you can chat to Collette.
  3. Foster a true growth mindset. We want to create a dynamic culture of excellence, where speaking up and challenging the status quo is the norm. For example, have debriefs after sales meetings or conduct after-action reviews where the after-action questions are known before the project begins. A true growth mindset is not the same as an open mind. It is about realising that you are always going to be influenced by your unconscious bias and knowledge gaps and that you don’t know what you don’t know. This allows you to approach every conversation prepared to be wrong and to learn something new. As mentioned above, the energy around these discussions needs to be one of development not criticism. Before we speak, we should always ask ourselves, “Is what I am going to say going to contribute to the value of the silence?”At home, encourage your children to share their thoughts, feelings, ideas and concerns with you. More important, share yours with them. The key to changing the culture in your family (or team) is to be the example. Show people that it is okay to share thoughts, feelings and ideas. Make it the norm to ask, “What is working? What is not working? And how can we overcome our challenges?” In other words, you want to live the spirit of kaizen and, as long as you live, keep learning how to live. Those very wise words by Seneca are the essence of a growth mindset.
What Key Steps will you take this week to create a culture of constructive conversations so that you can be the difference that makes the difference?

 “be the difference that makes the difference?”


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’