In Change, Communication, Leaders

“If you’re the boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong – that’s healthy.” – Robert Townsend

One of the struggles that many people in leadership roles face on a regular basis is a lack of honesty.  It’s not because leaders are surrounded by people who are habitual liars.  It’s simply because a very large percentage of the population is afraid to disagree with those who lead.

Almost everyone who works anywhere will say that they want to work for an organization or a person who values their opinions.  They want to feel heard.  They want their ideas to be taken seriously.  And yet, when leaders ask for their input, most people struggle to be completely honest, especially when they disagree with what the leaders are thinking.

There are lots of reasons for that, but the biggest one is trust.  You may not have ever done anything to cause people to not trust you.  You may have consistently sought out the opinions of others.  You may have honestly listened to those ideas and taken them seriously.  And yet, it can be difficult to get honest, difficult opinions.

While there isn’t a magic wand for getting tough feedback, there is one thing you can try that most leaders afraid to do.  Admit you’re struggling.  Admit you don’t know the answer.  Sometimes we think that as leaders we have to look confident all the time, and that if we don’t, morale will suffer.

Actually, morale will suffer if people think you’re a know-it-all, or if you never admit even obvious mistakes, or if they think you’re a phony.  When we don’t admit our challenges, and aren’t authentically vulnerable, we essentially take a sledgehammer to trust.  People can see we’re struggling and have problems.  Pretending we don’t amounts to lying, and no one wants to work for someone who lies to them.

Think about your challenges as a leader.  Are you honest with your team about those challenges?  Do you admit when you don’t have the answer?  I’m not saying every day has to be a giant confessional, but you have to be authentic about your uncertainties and shortcomings.

The people you lead have struggles and challenges of their own.  When you’re honest about yours, it makes them feel like you’re a real person.  And if they feel like you’re a real person, they just might give you the honest pushback you need.

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