It's strategy season and what you most need now is the truth. Here's the bad news: No one tells you the truth.
This may come as a surprise. You think you're approachable, fair, and level-headed. Trust me, you're not... at least not in the minds of your people. They remember that day a few months ago when you were a mini Mount Vesuvius and erupted all over them. They remember the time you heard something you didn't like and they felt the arctic breeze blow across the conference table, over their shoulder, and down their back toward the place where the sun never shines.
They have your verbatim comments from their last 360 degree feedback scrolling through their minds like the stock ticker in Times Square. Yes, they know the comments came from you even though HR says the survey is anonymous. They could pick out your writing style from a police line-up any day. Your anonymous comments do double duty: they provide dinner conversation and sleepless nights.
You call yourself passionate. They call you volatile. You say you like working with smart people. They say you hang with your cronies. You say you demand excellence. They say you're a perfectionist. You say you have an open door -- or maybe an open cube. They say you stuff your ears with cotton.
So when you most need the straight truth, you're left with oblique angles. People are playing each other like backboards, bouncing messages off each other or a subordinate or a consultant and hoping to get the ball to drop through your net. Each time they open their mouths, they're thinking about consequences.
So rather than articulate, they calculate. Some go silent. Worse yet, others have learned what you want to hear and they're happy to feed it to you: "You're right. Alex is a screw-up. And everyone else sees it too."
Maybe most frightening, those who are most likely to give you a straight shot have stopped short of 100% candor. They leave out the crucial 7%, quietly hoping you'll fill in the blanks and covering their bets by not showing their whole hand. Why risk retaliation when they're not sure you're going to go for it anyway?
Before you shrug your shoulders and move on, think about the consequences for a minute:
You're probably surprised about this. You might be tempted to forward this note to your own boss or to a colleague. But before you do, think for a second:
Since you have the courage to ask those questions, you probably want to take action. Here are a few ideas:
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