Silence. It’s Not Always Golden.
High-profile CEOs and business leaders – including household names like Apple, Target, Microsoft, and Google – have been weighing in to voice support for protests across the country. Others have quickly expressed solidarity with their black colleagues and customers. At the same time, many people wonder:
Should businesses speak out about social issues?
That’s the question I discussed with Gordon Deal on his daily radio show, This Morning with Gordon Deal.
What happens in the world, regionally, or in your community affects your business. While much of the press has centered around what these high-profile CEOs are saying or doing, the fact is that every business feels the pressure of what’s going on around them. Relationships with the community, your staff, customers and clients could be on the line. Further, ignoring those events – whether they are natural disasters, localized concerns, or broad social issues – doesn’t make them disappear or their impact any less real.
CEOs and senior leaders must be ready to have difficult conversations. That includes speaking out about social issues. Engaging in these conversations – with staff and others – is a great way for a CEO or senior leader to demonstrate their values. It’s an opportunity to meaningfully connect their mission (or purpose of the organization) directly to what they are doing or saying. Further, the leaders I advise tell me that when CEOs or other senior leaders make a public announcement, it carries that much more weight than an internal memo. Sharing the message outside of the organization has more value and impact not only for their staff, but also for other stakeholders.
It’s not about agreement.
As leaders, we always want to be transparent, direct, and honest. That requires coupling words with actions. It’s not about agreement with the CEO’s view. It is about creating the environment in which we can have open dialogue. Then, your leaders help others to navigate through difficult conversations. We learn and educate each other about what’s going on and how we feel. And we better understand the environment in which we are operating. That makes it easier to decide for ourselves: How do I want to show up as a leader?
Silence isn’t always golden.
Silence can create a message. If you want to tell your own story, control the narrative. Otherwise, silence will do that for you – and it may or may not be the message you want to share. Silence isn’t always golden. Instead, decide what you want to say and do. Connect it back to your purpose, your values: Where do you stand? What do you believe? Be explicit. After that, your actions and how you respond or speak about it – or not – will tell all about the extent to which you live what you believe.
To listen to my full interview with Gordon Deal (beginning at minute 18:45), click here.