Calling UP is a much better leadership practice than calling OUT.
We’ve gotten too used to the idea of calling out without challenging the motive, the impact on the people involved, and how it unhelpfully involves a whole lot of people who really don’t need to participate in the conversation.
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The founders of the 5 Voices System, Steve Cockram and Jeremie Kubicek, talk about Self Preservation in Episode 19 of the Liberator Podcast. In it, Steve makes a comment about how “calling up is better than calling out.” That idea got my attention so much I created some IP around it in the ‘calling up’ – Master Model below. The shift seems minor but I believe it can deeply alter the way a team functions when it comes to making it better.
We have gotten used to a rant, open letter, calling out culture at the expense of a more mature, steady, private approach to leadership development and transformation. We post passive aggressively on Social Media or finish what should have been an in-person conversation online with #rantover and think that somehow justifies the action or that will achieve our intended purpose. Both fall well short of the mark.
Here are 10 reasons why:
- It treats people with dignity and respect.
- It demonstrates high levels of maturity.
- It reveals the intent to improve the life of the other person.
- It assumes the best about the person you are speaking with.
- It deals with the issues in private.
- It invites true connection and authenticity.
- It only involves the people who need to be involved.
- It sets everyone up for the best possible outcome.
- It invites being understanding before being demanding.
- It leads with humility, perspective, and grace.
Calling Up – Master Model
To call someone up you must challenge the motives behind calling someone out. I get it, models are useful until they’re not. Same as this one. I know that not everyone who ‘calls someone out’ is trying to do the things listed here. I’m not suggesting you stay silent if your workplace is toxic or what is happening is unethical, immoral, illegal or unjust. That’s not the point here. The point is that in 99% of our leadership life if we shift to ‘calling up’ we will dramatically increase the depth of connection and transformation, and results.
The shift is in two areas. Firstly the language you use. ‘Calling up’ is a significant shift in what you want FOR the other person. It is changing from pointing out what is wrong to leaning into what could be right. The second is that it reshapes the WAY you might have a ‘calling up’ conversation. You can do this by following the baseline approach of the Master Model.
- Think about the issue.
- Plan the best approach.
- Intent. Be clear about your motives.
- Desire. Know what you want FOR the other person.
The Calling Up – Model Explained
In terms of how to be a leader that shapes a ‘calling up’ culture, you can implement it this way.
Map the expected experience.
Until this is intuitive, map your ‘calling up’ conversations this way:
- Motive – Why do I want to have this conversation?
- Message – What is the most truthful and helpful conversation to have?
- Manner – How should I have this conversation? What approach will work best?
- Moment – When is the best time to get the best outcome for this issue?
- Meaning – What insights am I intending to share? To what extent am I open to learning?
Follow the ‘calling up’ framework.
As you prepare for the conversation ask yourself the following questions:
- In what way will ‘calling up’ help this person be a better leader?
- How will this strengthen the other person, our relationship and our organisational goals?
- When is the most affirming time and place to have this conversation?
- In what ways can this exchange be personal, private, and helpful?
- To what extent am I focused on authentic transformation for everyone?
Over time you will get this done without having to refer to any model or process. Like being able to get home without thinking. Up until then use the plan as much as possible. Like all prescriptions, it’s when you go off-script that things can get messy. Stick to the structure until the structure becomes all yours.
Expect to learn as much as you teach.
I am more naturally a directive leader. My tendency is to tell first, then ask. The more I develop the skill of listening and adjusting voice order (more on that later) the more I see it always works better to listen, understand, consult, decide, then act. Most often what I think matters is either bought up or proven to be less of a good idea than I originally thought (and I think all my ideas are awesome BTW :))
When you call someone up, you are both the teacher and the student, leadership works better that way.
So, right now. Before you post, call, email or yell…. Stop and rethink what the next conversation will be like when you ‘call up rather than call out’.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.