If team members are expressing themselves in a time of crisis or uncertainty in a negative or aggressive fashion, the leader needs to be able to placate them and orchestrate a turnaround from one type of expression to another.
In addition, it is imperative that the leader sets the tone for expression. It is not appropriate for people to express themselves in an unprofessional manner. Younger team members who have not worked in a business environment before may need some pointers, but, if not given adequate training in business expression and etiquette (communication), they will merely play follow the leader. Young, fearless recruits who like to be outspoken may need some parameters for expression. This may need to extend into dress, body language and other aspects of good communication. Whilst a leader never demands that their team should just accept the status quo, if he is happy for them to question it, he needs to show them how. Whilst intellectual imagination is to be encouraged, so is appropriateness. Leadership is not about exhibiting the loudest voice in the team; it is about encouraging others to find their voices.
Create a platform for team members to express themselves – it may be in a physical activity, dress or in writing. A company intranet is one good way of getting everyone to get to know their team. Set aside one hour a week during which staff can practise public speaking on a topic that is close to their heart. You could even organise a quarterly get-away in which you allow your team to combine all of the above.
I have a client that allows their staff to host a Friday afternoon information session to build their confidence, knowledge and presentation skills. They can choose a topic relevant to their business, or something completely divorced from their line of work. The only pre-requisite is that the topic must be of general interest and stimulating. Their tea lady volunteered to host a session, and called for one of the administrative team to assist her in putting together a PowerPoint presentation on tea. When I arrived for their monthly brand consultation, the receptionist offered me green tea, and proudly expanded on the health benefits, telling me about the wonderful presentation they had enjoyed. The entire staff had been motivated to change their drinking habits, all because one individual was brave enough to step out of the box and try something new.