Richard Jolly and Randall S. Peterson of the London Business School wrote “Going nowhere fast: executive derailment and how to avoid it” for leaders who are concerned about their slowing careers. Here’s the paragraph that caught my eye.
“The fundamental building block, the core skill you have to master in order to reach your greatest personal heights, is exactly the same as it was 40 years ago when academics first started talking about executive derailment. As a senior executive it’s essential you develop and maintain self-awareness through feedback. You need to know what your personal strengths and weaknesses are and how other people see you.”
That sounds so easy to do, but it’s devilishly hard. It’s very easy to take any negative feedback as an attack and to brush off other negatives as “politically motivated.” You must find the truth and deal with it.
Leadership development and the reality of truth
Here’s one solid truth about truth. The higher you go on the org chart, the less good information you get from others about your performance or your ideas. If you want truth, you are going to have to make a special effort to find it.
Leadership development and the sources of truth
You should get good feedback from 360 assessments, but be sure to couple it with coaching. A good coach will help you see things you turn a blind eye to and help you sort out what you should do to improve.
Get out of your office and wander around. Listen a lot. Listen for the laughter that’s the sign of a good workplace. Listen for a key that you’re not trusted, it’s conversations that die down as you approach and resume as you pass by. Listen to what people tell you, because most likely telling you the truth is a courageous act.
Find, cultivate, and listen to the truth tellers. Every organization has them. They will speak the truth to power and that’s you. But beware. Truth tellers are often prickly personalities that live on the organization fringe. They will tell you the truth, but they will not spend an ounce of effort to make it comfortable for you.