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From FOSU (Fear of Speaking Up) to Fearless: Practical Ways To Ensure Your Voice is Heard

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Imagine it’s the moment in the meeting when your boss says, “Any other thoughts?” and you feel like a contestant on a game show. Should you hit the buzzer? Or should you keep quiet, haunted by the memory of that one time your idea was met with crickets?

Welcome to the FOSU Club—Fear of Speaking Up. Turns out, about 40% of people would rather pass on the buzzer than risk embarrassment. But what if today’s your day to win big?

If you ever find yourself holding back ideas, you’re in good company.

In our research on psychological safety and innovation, 40% of respondents said they lack the confidence to share their ideas.

67% said their managers operates around the notion of this is the way we’ve always done it. And 50% said they worry nothing will happen to their ideas anyway– so why bother?

And yet, during this challenging time of fast pivots, new technology and hybrid teams, your ideas matter more than ever.

Here’s a way to position your idea so it’s more likely to be heard. Position it using our Courageous Cultures I.D.E.A. Model.

I – Interesting

Articulate why your idea is not just another run-of-the-mill suggestion, but that will make a difference in what your team needs to accomplish. What is the core strategic problem that your idea addresses? Is it enhancing customer satisfaction, boosting employee morale, or increasing operational efficiency?

Show the tangible benefits that would result from the successful implementation of your idea.

Be sure your first sentence is a compelling attention grabber. Something that will make your boss (or whomever you’re pitching your idea to) put their phone down and listen.

For example, the other day, my high school senior son walked into my office yesterday and said, “Mama I have an idea that will let me go to college for free.” You can bet I put down my phone and listened to him.

D – Doable

An idea is only as good as its feasibility. The “Doable” aspect of the I.D.E.A. model is your chance to put on your “Trust me, I got this” face and inspire confidence about your ability to pull it off.

You don’t have to have figured out every detail—after all the perfect sourdough starter, wasn’t mixed in a day.

So, what’s the 411 on resources? How much time, money, and effort will it take? Break out your crystal ball and foresee any potential challenges or hurdles. Maybe it’s budget constraints, or perhaps it’s getting Bob from accounting to agree to anything without a 47-slide PowerPoint presentation. Whatever the obstacles, have some mitigation plans at the ready, even if that includes peace offerings to Bob in the form of spreadsheets or fancy pie charts.

E – Engaging

Explain how you would include others. Identify the key individuals or teams who would be instrumental in making your idea a reality. Why should they care? What’s in it for them? Anticipate potential resistance or objections and prepare counterarguments or alternative solutions to overcome such hurdles.

For example, perhaps your idea involves a technology change. You might say, “You may be wondering what this would take from technology perspective. I ran it by Joe in IT, he estimates it would take about two days of programming. He can’t get to it this week, but he could by the end of the month.”

A – Actions

The final step in the I.D.E.A. model zeroes in on the concrete actions required to set the wheels in motion. This is the “how” behind your “what.” Prioritize the most critical first steps. And hey, bonus points if you volunteer to spearhead one or more of these action items yourself. Because nothing says, “I believe in this” like rolling up your sleeves and diving in, even if you’re just the opening act for a world-changing headliner.

When you position your idea using the I.D.E.A. model, even if your idea isn’t used, you’re still coming across as a critical thinker, who cares about results, who can communicate well.

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