Key Point: “The biggest challenge we face as leaders is rarely about discovering the perfect strategy or developing a smarter product or figuring out the gaps in the business. It’s about being courageous enough and willing to take the risks necessary to talk about the difficult, sometimes scary truth and do something about it.”
“How could people who have been so successful in their careers not be courageous about communicating the problems they see in a business for which they are responsible? I think that the bar for leadership in most organizations is too low. We allow politics to supersede performance. And it’s hurting good organizations.”
In my career I’ve seen a lot of this. And it’s often worse the higher you go. An eerie silence emerges amongst execs. It’s like they unconsciously agree not to confront issues that might risk another executive poking into their own sandbox. For example, a business division leader thinks, “I’m not going to talk about how I really feel about technology issues if it risks having the CTO point out that my market strategy sucks… Or she potentially screws with my projects even more.” The silence is not only dangerous to the organization’s well being, it’s irresponsible leadership. Great leadership involves having a well-informed view and the respectful skill to both speak and listen to the hard “truths.” And this truth telling requires a safe environment where thoughtful and respectful debate is highly encouraged and desired. Frankly, I seek out people who have a view and the courage to confront mine. In fact, you can’t work for me for long without demonstrating that you are able to respectfully challenge my ideas. Why? It’s the intellectually honest seeking of the “truth” that leads to the best ideas and strategies. No one person can be autonomous in all decision making. None of us are that smart. The higher position we achieve, the more we need guidance from other strong viewpoints. Trust and truth really count when we want tough-minded, transformational leadership.
- Learn the skills required to respectfully listen for and speak the hard truths. Remember Susan Scott’s beautiful and somewhat haunting phrase, “the relationship is the conversation and the conversation is the relationship.”
- Attract people who can respectfully challenge you. They will make you a better leader. Respectfully challenge them. They will relish working for or with you. Truth seekers who are self-accountable problem solvers, big thinkers and aspirational dreamers attract others of the same mindset. And that’s a way to build a heck of a strong team and culture.
Truth seeking in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: It seems people need to stop being so sensitive about individual feedback. Listen, we’re all there to learn, get better, and if a colleague brings up alternative ideas or viewpoints, that likely doesn’t mean 1. Your original plan was terrible. 2. They think you’re inefficient. 3. They’re gunning to outshine or replace you. It’s just a discussion, and one worth having. Be confident in your own abilities, but you’re with an “organization” for a reason. You have the same goal as a company. Great teams don’t win without “huddling up” first.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis