It’s Your Fault They Raised Their Hand

Kylie Quetell Diversity, Innovation, Kylie Quetell, Leadership

You’re sitting in a meeting full of intelligent people (or, at least, people who think they are intelligent). Creative juices are flowing, the conversation is rocking, opinions are being shared, and discussion gets heated. Everyone is taking turns talking, sometimes speaking over each other or cutting people off, but damn – things are getting done.

The flow is happening.

This is where the good stuff happens; the business innovation, the sharing of best practices – this is the stuff that moves a business forward.

Then, right smack dab in the middle of the flow, someone raises their hand.

Someone in the room realizes there’s a hand raised, stops the conversation, and calls on the individual. The whole room waits for the earth-shattering comment they’re sure will change the state of business forever. And what does that hand-raiser do?

They ask a dumb question. Or they say something related to the conversation that happened five minutes ago. Something random, meek, off-topic, or (let’s face it) just plain boring.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what they said. What matters is that they raised their damn hand.

This is the stuff that drives us crazy – their meek manner derailed the entire process. The meeting continues, but the passion is gone. The flow has been broken. We might as well just go to lunch.

As a business leader in that room, you have two options:

–Option one is to fire them. Get them out of that room because they just did absolutely nothing for you.

–Option two is to figure out what in the hell you did wrong to create an environment in which someone thought they had to raise their hand to speak.

Hopefully, you have enough faith in your hiring decisions to know that they do belong in that room. Hell, you must have seen something in them to sign their paycheck. So, now you need to ask yourself:

  • How many times had they been in the room and seen a good idea get shot down without explanation?
  • How many times did they try to speak in the past, only to have their opinions not be acknowledged?
  • How many times did you see them be meek in a meeting, yet never pulled them aside to coach them up?
  • Look around the space. Is it just the old guard doing the talking? The men? The bosses? The egos?
  • What are you doing to engage all of your people and make sure their opinions are valued?

Before you go running to HR with your panties in a bunch, perhaps there is an opportunity to run to the bathroom and look in the mirror. What are you doing every single day to encourage the creative flow of all your employees? Cognitive diversity is here my friend, and it will continue to change business as we know it. Per Alison Reynolds and David Lewis of

“If cognitive diversity is what we need to succeed in dealing with new, uncertain, and complex situations, we need to encourage people to reveal and deploy their different modes of thinking.”

You may think that folks are born with it. They should be confident in their ideas. If they aren’t, it’s not your job to get them there.

You are completely wrong. If you have that mindset, you had might as well surround yourself with only like-minded people who will never, ever move business forward in this rapid digital landscape.

Keep it up and you might end up being the new guy, sitting in a meeting, raising your hand and waiting for someone to call on you.