GSDM Ampersand Logo
Search Icon


Search Submit Icon
Search Close Icon
Link Copied to Clipboard
Empower People to Speak up

You don’t have to manage to empower people. You just have to lead.


Why don’t people speak up?

It’s a common question, and there are many answers. For example:

  • The right person is in the room, but they don’t feel empowered to say something.
  • They don’t get called in until the last minute to vet an idea (sometimes after it’s been sold or even produced). It’s too late to fix much, so they just tell you what you want to hear.
  • They try to speak up but aren’t heard by the people in charge.
  • They’re only one person, so their opinion isn’t always representative of the entire group in question.

This needs to change.


Empower people to speak up early and often


Build teams that are truly diverse and show that you value those differing perspectives—from the beginning.

Involve everyone

Ask your team’s opinions and encourage them to lead discussions.

Talk up your team

People often assume that women and people of color are lower level than they are. Combat false assumptions by making sure everyone, including clients and vendor partners, knows the value each member of your team brings to the table.

Support teammates when they speak up

You might be surprised at the impact of an encouraging word.

Make speaking up okay

Remind everyone that speaking up makes the work better. Speaking up isn’t being difficult. It’s our job.

Take feedback well

Be open to feedback to set an example for your team. Remember that good feedback can come from anyone.

Easy Tip

Titles lend credibility. If you’re senior, don’t downplay your title as this encourages everyone else to do the same.


Don’t be afraid to speak up— even if you’re not super senior

Speaking up can feel scary. Most of us don’t love conflict. But you’re in the room because your perspective is valued.

So let people know what you think.

You’re not being mean or calling anyone bad. You’re just making the work better.

Easy ways to speak up:

  • “Hey, there are no women or people of color on this director list. Aren’t we doing Free the Work?”
  • “That feels a little stereotypical. Is there a way to flip it?”
  • “Can we talk about how different audiences might see this?”
  • “All this UGC is great. But I don’t see any diversity. Can we keep looking?”


Use your privilege for good

Having privilege doesn’t mean you’ve never faced adversity. It just means you haven’t faced a specific kind of adversity that someone else has.

This could be based on your gender identity, race, seniority, economic situation, sexual orientation, physical ability, appearance and more.

You don’t have to feel guilty about your privilege. But you should recognize that it exists, and then use the power it gives you to advocate for others.

Power moves:

Male Privilege

If you notice people talking over a woman in a meeting, say, “I don’t think Beth was finished.”


Ask a more junior person what they think.

White Privilege

Bring up diversity and inclusion issues so it’s not always on people of color.


Show, don’t tell. If people see someone with privilege using it for good, others will be more likely to do the same.

It Takes Time

Give your team enough time to get it right

Talking through different perspectives takes more time than just nodding our heads.

But it’s worth it because different perspectives make the strategy smarter and take ideas from good to “First & Only.”

So when someone flags an issue—even at the last minute—take the time to consider it and make sure nothing problematic goes out the door just to meet a deadline.

In our business, fast is important.

But it’s not as important as right.

That said, the more we do this and the more we all learn, the faster it’ll go.


Get Diverse Perspectives


When Things Go Wrong…


Get Diverse Perspectives


When Things Go Wrong…


Get Diverse Perspectives


When Things Go Wrong…