January 27, 2007

Good day, team,

The theme of the January 2007 special issue of the Harvard Business Review is “The Tests of a Leader.” In the article “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” I found a quote that I want to share with you this week.

“While your direct reports know what you are doing wrong, most of them are not dying to tell you. It takes a concerted effort to cultivate subordinates who will advise and coach you.”

I thought about this statement in relation to the managers I work with, and I found that it’s invariably true. For fear of reprisal, we don’t tell our bosses what we really think of them and their performance. And yet, because we work with them every day and are affected by their decisions, we have many observations that would help them do a better job. However, these observations are not easy to hear. And often, they’re even harder to say.

By developing a network of fellow team members and subordinates who can give us honest feedback, we can modify our behavior throughout the year and avoid year-end surprises in our performance reviews. More importantly, we can build more honest and open communication with the people we work with and trust.

Wise companies dedicate a portion of a manager’s performance review to what team members need from their boss; for example, the question might read, “As your boss, what can I do to help you be more successful and what do I need to change?”

This week, try asking for more direct feedback from your subordinates or your teammates. I’m sure you’ll meet resistance when you ask, “What should I be doing differently?” or “What can I change that will help us both be more successful?” After an awkward silence, your team member might come up with a suggestion that’s devastating to hear. But remember, the sting of a reproach is the truth in it.

What you do with this feedback is critical. If you act on it, you will improve your performance. And, more important, you will take a big step toward building trust and laying the groundwork for a continued channel of open and honest feedback. When your team members see you respond to their suggestions, they will feel empowered and take some ownership in your success. After all, who can resist the Three Musketeers’ rallying cry: “One for all, and all for one!”

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

(c) Copyright 2007 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

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