The people who tend to need the feedback the most are the ones that tend to get it the least. That’s the senior leaders and managers. Why is this the case? Often unless there’s a high-trust collaborative relationship in place where there are clear permissions about giving candid feedback, receiving candid feedback, and sharing thoughts, people tend not to give the boss the feedback because self-preservation there brings top priority. It’s giving what could be perceived as negative feedback to a boss. It’s like telling a new parent that their newborn child is ugly. You just don’t do it because the consequences are too severe.
The thing is, when there’s a high-trust relationship between a leader, a manager, and a member of their team, the kind of dialogue that is deserving to be heard, which is deserving to be shared does get shared because the recipient of it knows that they’re not being attacked. They’re not being doubted. They’re not being questioned, and they’re not being on demand. Please bear in mind, if you have any reservations about speaking your truth to power, which ultimately is what it is, have a think about how you can get the person to actually want to listen to it, to want to engage with you, rather than go on the defensive or ignore you completely.
One easy way to do this is to use this phrase, this question: Would you be happy for me to share a thought? Or, may I just share a thought with you about…? Why? Because what you’re doing there, you’re asking permission to share information. You’re not throwing it on people. You’re not overwhelming them with information. You’re asking them to engage with you in a dialogue. Having asked maybe I share a thought or would you be happy for me to share a thought on whatever subject it may be, you have to have something that would be valuable for them to know, to understand, to listen to or to welcome.
Then you’ve got to back it up with some information that’s good for them. When you’ve done that, it may be you want to improve a process, change a procedure that would streamline and improve operation effectiveness; it may be that you require some support and you’d appreciate it from them. Whatever it may be, ask permission to share, then do share it, and then ask for some action following up. Would you be happy to do that? Would you be happy for me to proceed on that basis? Then you’ll find that speaking truth to power is survivable, if not a little bit enjoyable.