By David M. Dye
Mark stared at the floor, his jaw clenched in frustration.
I was sitting with a leader who had just crashed and burned. He’d made a decision that had cost him his reputation and maybe his job.
He looked up at me and with a quiet whisper, Mark asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
The sad part was that it didn’t have to happen this way. People in his organization knew it wasn’t a good call…
But he never heard their feedback.
People in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth – often difficult truths about themselves.
Even so, leaders and managers have to make difficult and important decisions. In order to make the best decisions possible, you need to have as much meaningful information as possible.
The old Hans Christian Andersen story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is based on this unfortunate tendency of leaders who no longer hear truth. If it’s been a while since you heard this tale, I won’t ruin it for you, except to say it results in the Emperor parading naked up and down the street after two tailors take advantage of him.
Here are six ways to ensure you have the truth you need (and don’t end up walking naked down the street):
1. Ask for the Truth
Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn’t know. Become a person known for caring what’s really going on.
2. Say Thank You
When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank them for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.
If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if not every idea is actionable, acknowledging that the ideas were heard and considered increases the likelihood of hearing more in the future.
4. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger
If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they probably will never bring you another concern.
5. Find Your Truth-Tellers
There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.
6. Look In the Mirror
If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet you are not doing one or more of the first four items on this list.
If you struggle to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.
It may take time, but if you consistently ask for the truth, show gratitude for input, and respond to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.
Which step will you take to make sure you get the feedback you need to be effective?
Copyright © 2011-2014 David M. Dye
Bio Paragraph: David Dye works with leaders to get breakthrough results without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. He is the award-winning author of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. He is the President of Trailblaze, Inc, tweets from @davidmdye, and welcomes your LinkedIn invitation.