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Yes People

In a meeting room, somewhere in central Manchester, a man sits nodding at his boss. There have been some complicated and uncomfortable issues brought up this morning. At times, the team discussion has become heated, and one person raised their voice loud enough to cause three others to turn and stare. But another man, the man we are focusing on here, doesn’t say much at all. In fact, the only words which come from his mouth are, “I agree with everything that’s being said.” And so, the compliant colleague adopts their typical stance of remaining firmly in the middle ground.

Why is this a problem? Surely the worker who goes with the flow and keeps their head down comes with a no-hassle guarantee? But, in fact, there are plenty of reasons why a yes person is not an asset to your team. Samuel, Head of Talent Acquisition in a top investment bank, says, “One of the first questions I ask new recruits is, ‘Why is listening to others so important in your role’? It’s really interesting what they come up with, but, basically, I want them to understand that they need to keep their ear close to the ground so they know what is going on externally and internally. It’s all about heightened awareness. The second question is, ‘How might you use that information to innovate a different approach?’ If someone doesn’t have an inquiring mind or the daring to try something different, I am immediately put off.”

And there’s the rub.

How can a person who doesn’t take risks, shies away from innovation, resists responsibility and reverts to blind agreement ever be a valuable member of staff? At we say that every employee has the potential to be just that! Because behind every person who settles for compliance, there may be an influential and worthwhile voice that’s desperate to be heard. It might just need an attentive ear.

The safe psychological space for one-on-one conversations between a User and UA (Untapped Accelerator) explores in depth what might be happening behind the veil of conformity. In this environment, users are supported and challenged to think about the impact of their behaviour. At we understand that people are complex, and the reasons for them adopting a certain approach can be steeped in embedded thinking.

Perhaps one of the more difficult shifts for a ‘yes character’ is to become a team player. If they do not have the confidence or drive to think for themselves, how can they contribute fully to the wider decision-making? Strategic planning will not come easy to them, and they may lack the daring to consider what might not be working well and how to influence it. For a business to be successful, truth is crucial. If your staff are only saying what they think their bosses want to hear, there can never be room for more honest conversations – which are the gateway to positive change.

On our platform, we are seeing that those who descend into compliance tend not to feel safe. This means they might be in a situation where they believe there is low acceptance of mistakes, or their opinion isn’t valued, or trust hasn’t been built with their leaders. This can manifest in them feeling overlooked, unstimulated, reluctant to engage and inclined to sit meekly in the middle ground.

The role of an UA is to explore these thoughts, bring them out into the open and help that person to build self-awareness so they can move towards a different and more empowered way of behaving. John Amaechi, leading organisational psychologist and coach, said in a recent online interview, “People who know themselves well, who are willing to look into the nooks and crannies, the dark bits, and critically and objectively and fairly assess themselves, tend to have a good foundation to be a leader.” But this interpersonal process takes courage, and that’s why our UAs, experts in EQ, are there to work alongside Users to guide them through the murky bits.

One User recently sent us this feedback: “For so long I settled for the back seat. I never wanted to mess up or challenge my colleagues; it just felt too hard. But after nearly six months on this program, I have a deeper sense of who I am, where I get stuck, and an understanding of the reasons behind my default behaviour. For the first time in my career, I have the confidence to take the lead, and I feel my opinion really does matter.”

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