It’s Not Them, It’s You

You`re leading a monthly meeting. You`ve asked your team members to provide their input on a topic. Unlike your teenager who at least shrugs his shoulders (or says “I don`t know”) when you ask for his opinion, you get silent stares from your team. What could be going on?

Are your team members incompetent? Do they even know enough about the subject to speak up? Don’t they know that their input is important? Actually, you may need to look to yourself and your behavior as the cause.

The behaviors you exhibit may be shutting your team down. Luckily, these behaviors can be fixed over time, increasing the liklihood that you will get the input you seek. Let`s explore the behaviors that may be preventing your team from speaking up:

  • You are not listening: Are you doing all the talking? Are you shutting people down or cutting them off?  
  • You have ignored your team`s input: Do you have a history of asking for input and then doing whatever you think is right anyway?
  • You are asking the wrong kind of questions: Are your questions the kind that don`t foster discussion (yes/no questions for example)? Are the questions you are asking ones that you already know the answers to?
  • You supply the answers to the questions: Do you ask the question and then supply your own answers? Are you allowing the silence necessary for your team to consider their answer (yes, silence can be a good thing in this case)?
  • You shoot the messenger: Do you respond with your opinion (often negative) to the responses you`ve received? Do you feel the need to judge every answer?
  • Are you showing impatience or temper? Does your body language indicate that you are not getting the kind of answers you want? Are you rolling your eyes or sighing when a team member responds to a question? Worse yet, are you showing signs of anger or exhibiting outbursts?

Is it possible that any of these behaviors apply to you? Ask someone you trust to observe you and provide some feedback. If you find that you are exhibiting any of the behaviors above, you need to change your behavior. You`ve lost respect for yourself and for others and are on a downward spiral. It`s recoverable. More about how to recover in the next post.


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

7 comments on “It’s Not Them, It’s You

  1. Mary Jo, great post as always! It made me chuckle to remember a client of ours that had done several personal growth and teamwork seminars with us and was puzzled about this very thing: why didn’t his team feel confident to speak up? He asked us to observe a meeting which he started by saying: “I want your honest feedaback. It’s very important to me…just don’t say anything stupid!”

  2. Mary Jo, I think you bring up a good point of getting someone you trust to observe you in order to understand why you’re getting the reactions you are.

    One of the best pieces of advice I was given was understanding that what message you want to share and what message is perceived is not always the same thing. Listening and observing the reactions you get to what you say is a valuable way to know if you’re actually imparting the message you want to relay.

    Looking forward to reading your follow-up on this piece.

  3. Christopher, great additions – thanks!

    Monica, thanks for the funny/sad story. Did he change his ways following your expert coachng?

    Tanveer, it looks to me like you have learned to be self-observant (of yourself and others). Bravo, not an easy thing for many!

    David, thats a great re-phrasing of the “stupid question” quote my mother used to say. Thanks.

    Kevin, Check out Crucial Conversations or check with your HR department. They may have some resources to assist with delivering feedback.

  4. Wow, would I love to forward this to a couple of certain someones! Once when I was having one of those “is it just me?” moments at a weekly meeting, I decided to start making notes to observe that. I already had all my PREVIOUS meeting notes in which I had noted my input and then the response it got (which was “BMO” meaning “Blew Me Off”) and was all set to take it personally until I made a study of the response to others’ input which turned out to be BTOT (i.e. “Blew Them Off Too!”) Once you get that this is an equal opportunity “Pearls Before Swine” response, YOU can BIO (BLOW IT OFF!)too! lol

Comments are closed.