Often, when I'm working with emerging leaders or high potentials in an organization, I hear them say something like the following: "I get what you are saying about encouraging subordinates to speak up and express dissent. However, I can't change the culture/climate on my own. My boss isn't here. He or she needs to change too. What do I do to influence their behavior?" It's a great question! Let me offer a few thoughts:
1. First, focus on what you can control, rather than worry about what is beyond your control. Change the way you lead your team. If all of you in this program begin to do that, you will begin to shift the organizational climate. You will serve as exemplars for those that work for you.
2. Use questions as your tool for opening up more dialogue in meetings led by your boss. Rather than confronting your boss about the fact that he or she may not be encouraging people to speak up, try asking some non-threatening questions in team meetings that encourage others to share information or views that have not been disclosed previously.
3. Use one-on-one meetings to convey to your boss that he or she may not have heard all views in a key team meeting. Let them know, with specifics, how certain concerns are not being surfaced (without naming names!).
4. Invite your boss to sit in on a meeting you are leading with your team, and showcase some techniques that you and your team use to cultivate productive debate and candid dialogue.
5. When you read about a company that stumbled because senior executives were unaware of bad news until it was far too late, share it with your boss. Send the article to him or her by email. A compelling story of another organization's failure might trigger an attempt to change behavior at your firm.