Unconscious immunity

I can remember at some point in my childhood, my brother and I were having a pointless argument over a pointless topic in only the way that loving siblings can. I can’t remember the specifics, there were far too many brotherly tiffs to record them all, but I know that he was teasing me over something that I had tried to do and failed badly at. And my mother said,

“Those who never try, never fail”

Those who never try….never fail.  Ok so this was said as a rebuke to a 9-year-old evil tempered older brother. But some 30 years or so later I was sat in the US thinking about the future of HR and why we seem incapable as a profession of shaking off the shackles of mainstream perception and the words start to take on a separate but equally  valid meaning.

So many of us out there in the profession are seeking some sort of unconscious immunity.  If we say nothing outside of “the box”, then there is no chance that we will be ridiculed.  If we keep our counsel on subjects that are out of the strictly defined “people agenda” then we will never look stupid. If we don’t talk and stay silent, then we might not look stupid and might raise our credibility.

Of course, when you read this – like me – you’ll think this is a nonsense.  It makes no sense right?  Why would not saying something be more likely to improve your credibility than saying something? But then you are reading this from a rational objective and not an emotional one. And the way that we interact in business and express our views is, in my opinion, more based on the latter than the former.

Saying nothing is a seemingly sure bet.  If you say nothing, you will seldom be wrong. The view on the monthly financial report, the question on the marketing plan, the point on the supply chain strategy that just doesn’t sit right.  Raising them…..well you could be totally wrong and make yourself a laughing-stock. But not raising them………?

Don’t get me wrong, I can be guilty of this myself. Sitting in a meeting and thinking “that doesn’t make sense” but saying absolutely nothing. Not always, but sometimes. And I need to challenge myself to break this habit.  You don’t change anything by staying silent, you change by speaking out.

Very little grows in the shadows, it grows in the glare of the midday sun.  You put yourself out there and of course there is the risk that you may just get something wrong. But let he who is without asking a daft question, throw the first stone.  And you never know, once in a while, you might say something that really changes the game.