It’s easier to remain silent.
We learn this in our earliest and most foundational relationships:
- Don’t talk back to your father (child/parent)
- Don’t talk in class (student/teacher)
- It’s my way or the highway (athlete/coach)
This socialization, combined with the wiring in our brains that makes us highly tuned to how other people feel about us, make it easier to remain silent. More so in hierarchical environments, like the workplace, where many people feel vulnerable to the whims of their boss or team leader. Despite their experience and training, the default is usually acquiescence. After all, no one ever got fired for staying silent.
But what if you worked somewhere that silence could lead to death? Like in the cockpit of an airplane. The recent news of Boeing 737 crashes has reminded me that silence, deference or deafness in the cockpit is a leading cause of preventable airline crashes. In this article from 2018, a retired airline captain reviews some of the crashes that lead to the creation of Crew Resource Management (CRM), a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have a devastating effect.
In describing two crashes from the late 1970’s he states “Neither accident should have happened because some of the crewmembers knew things were going wrong but could not persuade the captain.” Now CRM, is a major component of every airline safety program.
Every pilot is taught the skills of leadership, followership and effective communication
Followership might not be a word in the English dictionary that we are familiar with, but it should be a skill that every manager tries to master. It starts by giving a voice to everyone on the team and communicating with them in a style that works for them. Some are extroverts, comfortable in large groups and are OK talking over each other in a meeting. Others will need time to think, consider the options and craft a complete and thorough response. It’s a manager’s job to hear them all and eliminate the silence that kills.
We are all working to the same goal – whether that be landing a plane safely, completing an open heart surgery or making our revenue targets – and everyone is responsible for that goal. If we learn from the CRM playbook, we can still be the captains of our team at the same time we are being responsible to the concerns and needs of our fellow crewmembers.
If you’d like to discuss your followership, click here to Pick My Brain for free.