Making it Safe to Tell the Truth to the Boss
How many times have you sat in a room or amphitheater with your boss presenting his 15-point plan to solve all of the problems du jour? As he spends hours waxing poetic on the nuances of his glorious plan: the research at its foundation, the 10 smart people he brought to the offsite, the uselessness of the market and competitive forces to prevent its success, … All the while, you know DEFINITIVELY that this plan is DESTINED TO FAIL because no one took into account what you know being on the front line of the organization. Did you speak up?
If you are like 99% of the people we have interviewed over the last year, then your answer is an emphatic “hell no!”
We all know that telling the boss something unpopular is career limiting at best and career damaging at worst. In all of our interviews, the one person who did say he told the boss his plan wasn’t going to work was kindly asked to leave the company 1 week later.
There is an implicit understanding that it isn’t safe to tell the boss unpopular responses or even outright objections; and it is because of this that statics show that 75% of initiatives fail leading companies to bleed cash and go out of business. In fact, the average life expectancy of a company in 1975 was 75 years, but in 2015 that life expectancy drops to 15 years. Bottom-line is that we need to make it safe for all levels of employees feel safe to tell the truth of what will and won’t work in order for corporations to stay competitive and succeed in today’s global environment.
We now live in an age where buy-in matters and a social/inclusive management style matters. In order to make it safe for your employees to tell you the truth
you should establish these criteria:
- Social: people are social creatures and work best when they can interact with the entire team to maximize the groups collective intelligence
- Inclusive: the perception that everyone is on equal footing and no one is excluded because of race, sex, position or bias
- Safe: fear of retribution (being fired at worst or ostracized at a minimum) will prevent the team from getting to the hard truth of the matter
- Buy-in: people need to feel that they are being heard and understood in order to be engaged without this they won’t buy-in and could even passive aggressively work against you
- Timely: business is a real time proposition so the longer you take to get to a decision the easier it is for outside circumstances to change the scenario and your ability to succeed
- Actionable: at the end, you will need something to act upon and not just get a collection of sentiments; there needs to be a quantifiable and qualifyable method to measure results