Man sitting on a cliff edge | open and honest leadership team

The Voice in Your Head Is Hijacking Your Meetings

Mike Kotsis meetings, Team Health

I set an expectation for every client in every session to be open and honest. But it’s challenging — sometimes, nearly impossible — for most people to be truly open and honest. Especially with other leaders in the room. 

In his book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni spells out that at the root of team health is vulnerability-based trust. Without vulnerability among the leaders at the table — meaning the willingness to admit 1) I’ve made a mistake 2) I don’t know what to do 3) I need help — producing good results for the company becomes exponentially harder and more time consuming. The people around the table need to not only be willing to practice vulnerability, but to do it IN THE MOMENT — not hours or days later. 

Side note: if you find yourself having a sidebar conversation after the fact about something that happened in the meeting, it’s a sign that you weren’t open and honest in the moment. 

Being open and honest is a deeply personal thing to each person in the room, and it can feel really uncomfortable at times. Why is it so hard for people to be open and vulnerable in the moment, and how can you take that leap forward?

Dig deeper: How to Become an Open, Honest Leadership Team

Listen to That Voice in Your Head

Michael Singer, in his book The Untethered Soul, unpacks the root of why this is so challenging. Singer presents a perspective that each one of us has a voice in our head that we don’t even realize is there. We are so used to the voice that we just think it’s part of who we are. 

Right now if you’re wondering, “What’s he talking about? What voice?” The voice in your head that asked that question as you’re reading this is the very voice he’s talking about. As you start to become more aware of the voice, the more you’re able to realize that it doesn’t need to define who you are. 

Here’s why it can be so difficult to be open and honest. As the team tackles an issue, and as it  becomes more uncomfortable to deal with, the louder the voice in your head becomes. Especially when you’re dealing with people issues that involve family members or long-time relationships. The voice starts spinning stories:

  • You don’t want to appear hurtful
  • Your ideas won’t work or aren’t good enough
  • Your opinion is the odd one out

Each one of us has a voice in our heads, and the problem is that we assume (without even realizing it) that everyone else’s voice in their heads is saying the same thing. It isn’t. Each one of us has a different set of experiences that has been influential in shaping who we are. 

The voice lives in our ego — it warns us not to look foolish, to appear like we’ve got our act together, and to avoid embarrassing ourselves by asking a dumb question. This builds a barrier, preventing people from being open and honest in the moment. 

What does Singer say we can do about this? 

Getting Beyond the Voice in Your Head

First, just start noticing the voice in your head. Become aware of it.  Notice it when your team is IDSing people issues, and acknowledge it verbally with the team. “The voice in my head is saying….” will help to drive awareness. This will help others in the room to acknowledge what their voices are saying, and it will help your leadership team to get to the root cause of the issue faster, because you’re bypassing the ego. 

Related: Use Silence to Get More Input from Your Leadership Team

When I take this approach with my clients, there’s a visible wave of relief in the room. It’s freeing simply to acknowledge that everyone has a voice in their heads, and it’s this voice that prevents us from being open and honest in the moment. Once it is acknowledged, it’s like a pressure release valve, because it draws awareness for everyone in the room, and allows you to get to the root cause of the issue together as a team, faster.

Once you acknowledge your voice aloud, your team can begin having breakthroughs not only in team health but in every other kind of issue throughout the session.

Is your leadership team ready to become more open and honest in the moment? Let’s talk about your needs!