Lately I have been noticing a pattern among people with whom I speak about their jobs and people I coach. Managers talk a lot about issues with their leaders:

-Their leader is unclear about priorities for the team

-The leader is showing preferential treatment to certain team members

-The leader is sitting on decisions interminably, hurting team timeliness

-The leader is not explaining important decisions she makes

-The leader is sweeping conflicts under the rug

-The leader is not responding to emails or texts in a timely fashion

-The leader is not delegating work

-The leader is ignoring teammate concerns

This list goes on and on. Often, when I ask managers and leaders if they have discussed their concerns about their leaders’ behaviors or attitudes with their own leader, they say “Oh no! I couldn’t do that!”

When I ask why, they cite one of these reasons:

-“My boss is not be receptive to criticism”

-“My leader pretends she is listening but does not really process our concerns”

-“Talking to my leader hasn’t worked before, so why should I try again?”

-“Having this kind of conversation with my boss would make me too uncomfortable”

-“I’m not the right person to have this talk with my boss. There’s someone else on our team who is better positioned to do it.”

-“I don’t want to make waves. It will only make things worse.”

The excuses go on and on. In reality, usually nothing will change unless we take it upon ourselves to bring our concerns to our leaders. Leaders rarely have epiphanies about how they are showing up in the work space. They can usually benefit from feedback, feedback delivered with:

These kinds of conversations with our leaders can be uncomfortable – for both the person delivering the feedback and the person receiving the feedback. However, unless we are willing to ask tough questions, things often will not change.

How can we ask our own leaders these frank questions:

-We can avoid “you” statements and start with “I” statements, taking ownership of our feelings

-We can stay away from “why” questions and stay with what questions, which help the other person avoid defensiveness

-We can avoid questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers that tend to end conversations

-We can couch our concerns in team contexts, referring to the effectiveness of the entire office, not just ourselves

-We can explain that our concerns are based on a desire to help our boss look good and be effective – all leaders want that!

-We can ask a straight-forward question that gets to the heart of our leader’s performance: “What can I do starting tomorrow to help you be the best leader you can be?”

If you are a leader, I encourage you to welcome questions like this. Receiving feedback from the people we lead is a crucial form of leadership growth and learning. We must be open to this kind of feedback if we want to continue to progress on our unique leadership journeys.

If you are interested in pursuing this subject further, I highly recommend two books by Kim Scott:
“Radican Candor”
“Radical Respect” (new)

Please create a culture at work where questions are encouraged at all levels!!!

If you believe this content would resonate with a friend or colleague, please feel free to forward it along!


By | 2024-05-21T05:14:29-04:00 May 21st, 2024|Leadership|0 Comments