As a leader, you want to believe your people are telling you the truth–but are they? Though some of us as entrepreneurial leaders have always been our own bosses, chances are you were at some point an employee. So, when you were an employee, did you always tell your boss the truth?
I’m not talking about lying (hopefully, you didn’t do that). I’m talking about telling the whole truth. For example, did you tell your boss what you thought your boss wanted to hear or what you thought needed to be said? Or when your boss asked, “Are we all on board?” were you willing to risk saying to your boss and the rest of your team, “I’m not really in agreement!” Or when you heard that other people in your organization expressing some frustration with your boss, were you willing to tell your boss, “Hey, I think you’ve got a problem!”
If you’re like the vast majority of people, your answers to the above questions were, “Not really.” If that is true of you–and you have leadership capabilities, why would you ever think that your people are always telling you the truth?
Now, this may seem self-serving (it’s not intended to), but this is one of the main reasons why you should regularly hire outside consultants. I’m always amazed at what employees tell me when I do my initial rounds of interviews with new clients. Some of what they say is predictable–but not always. Frequently, CEOs are surprised to find out what their people really think.
For example, we may think that we’re being a great boss by giving them lots of freedom, but they may be interpreting it as, “He doesn’t really care.” Or we may think that when we took the time to create, as a group, a new mission, vision and values statement that we did a great job. But they may be thinking, “This is just window dressing so she doesn’t have to deal with Joe and Judy and their lack of performance.”
Or we may think we’re doing a great job coaching our team because we give them lots of ideas and feedback, but they may be thinking, “I can never do anything right for him. He never says, ‘Great idea. Run with it!’” Or, we may be completely unaware that our non-verbals are communicating loud and clear, “I’m not listening to you.”
Throughout history, very few people have been willing to speak into power. It always has been and always will be. Though you and I will occasionally find some senior staff who will tell us the truth, most won’t. So don’t be surprised.
As you may know, one of the first steps toward creating change is facing reality. But to get there, you’ll probably need someone from the outside to help you get there. It’s no different than asking your customers to tell you the truth. Some will, but most will simply tell you what you want to hear. To get the real truth–and that is what you want–you’ll probably need someone from the outside to help you get there. So, choose wisely!
To your accelerated growth!
P.S. This should go without saying, but that someone should possess great relational skills, be able to bond quickly, and have impeccable integrity.