I have a big personality. It often serves me well. I’ve made friends, leveraged connections, raised money, and achieved quite a bit in part because I stand up, speak clearly, confidently, and magnetically. - I’ve also been straight up wrong before too, and yet I keep yammering away.
But, where does my “right” to speak come from? I believe that I’ve earned some of it, but not all. I’ll skip over the struggles and triumphs of my life, they are not important here. What matters is recognizing that what I look like, my gender, my access to high-quality education, and my family situation are all unearned advantages in the unequal world we live in.
As I reflect on my life, I’m sure of one thing: The size of my personality and the magnitude of my voice drowned out someone else. I’m not thinking of any specific example, I’m just certain that this has happened. This is a problem, and it’s a concrete example in which I can check my white male privilege. And I can do so with the express goal of fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment around me. Essentially, I need to shut up sometimes and listen more.
In fact, leaders of all kinds should heed this warning. Even, if it’s not firmly along the lines of express inequality based privilege, some people are just not as gregarious as others. The softer spoken or those too uncomfortable to speak might just have the insight you and your team needs to solve a challenging problem.
From the smallest team to society as a whole, the challenge for leaders is to foster a safe environment where people feel comfortable expressing their point of view. Sometimes, (well at least for me) that means zipping it, even when you feel sure you have something of worth to say. Why? You might miss a myriad of perspectives because of the figurative volume of our own voice. Or worse, you might be discouraging people from sharing their unique perspective. That is a loss to you, your team, your org, and society as a whole.
Perfect Loop is investing deeply in Diversity AND Inclusion. In fact, one of our co-founders and Chief Talent Officer Joe Shao is hosting a panel as part of Seattle Startup Week called “How Leaders Build Diverse Teams.” It’s a related topic and should be a riveting discussion held at 6:00 PM on Oct 4th, 2017 at Galvanize Seattle.
Come Join Us. I’ll be shutting up and listening in the background.
Director of Business Development