I was recently talking with a business coaching client who had just lost a major account. After doing a little more digging, it was discovered that one of his account representatives, Casey, knew it was coming months before the client officially put in their notice to terminate. Naturally, the owner thought that letting Casey go was the correct course of action, but I challenged him to look at the bigger picture. Was it Casey’s fault, or was it the company culture that the business owner had created that was the culprit in this situation? If he had created a culture that encouraged employees to use their voices and speak up when they saw something of concern, could the account have been saved? I think it could have. So, today I wanted to discuss why it’s time to give your team a voice.

Psychological standing

When it comes to team dynamics, having a healthy company culture takes work. New or inexperienced managers are typically pretty good at giving everyone on their team a role.  It lets them know where they fit in.  And that’s valuable to the team dynamic as a whole. In Casey’s case, he was in charge of overseeing all the accounts and making sure that product was delivered to the customer on time and on budget.

A leader, on the other hand, would take it a step further and give everyone not only a role to play but a voice in what happens within their position and department. The fancy term in psychology for this is psychological standing.  Now, psychological standing says that everyone on your team has the legitimacy to perform an action with respect to a cause or issue.

If you look at Casey’s situation, he received feedback from the client that they were growing frustrated with the company. The client was getting product on time, but the quality of the product in the client’s eyes wasn’t up to their standards, and they likely needed a different product entirely. But Casey’s role was just to make sure that the product got there on time. It wasn’t his “place” to recommend products or let upper management know there was an issue. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, because in essence what the employee is saying is he didn’t feel he had any psychological standing. So, he stayed in his lane and kept the information to himself.

A better way

Could this have been avoided? Absolutely. A leader can give their team a voice even in areas of the business they’re not directly responsible for. Say things like, “In our business, if you notice us doing something out of alignment with our values, or you notice a place where we could do better, or you notice an area where we’re heading off a cliff or off on a tangent, then please say something. We expect that. The other day, Jill, she saw us ______, and here’s what she did to help pull us back onto what we needed to accomplish.”

And when someone on your team does something like this, share it with the rest of the team. It gives the others permission to do the same. A leader gives their whole staff psychological standing to help in any area of the business where they see that something better can happen or something bad can be avoided, and they give them permission to take action.