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Fact: Many of the leaders I coach are scared to say what they really think to their people.

They withhold facts¹: One of my direct reports is interviewing elsewhere.

They withhold thoughts and opinions: I don’t support expanding into the US market right now.

They withhold feelings: I feel anger that I was not consulted on that hire.

They withhold sensations: I feel a lump in my throat when the VP Sales talks about our targets.

They hold back on speaking their truth because they believe it is safer. They hold back on speaking their truth because to do otherwise feels so dangerous.

Candor can be hard, leaving us exposed and vulnerable.

Fact: I sometimes withhold, too, in my business and personal relationships. At times, I even withhold during coaching sessions. I am paid to be frank and I still find myself holding back at times. Happily, as I commit to candor in my life, it happens less and less.

Here’s why it happens for me and the leaders I coach.

We have deep underlying assumptions/beliefs that speaking our truth will push people away. We believe (somewhere in reptile part of our brains) that if we push people away we will end up failed and alone. Sound extreme? It is shockingly common.

A while back I provided a formula for feedback that I stand by.  It’s a great place to start when you want to tell a colleague (boss, peer, direct report, supplier, etc.) what happened, how you felt about it and what the impact was. When done well, a feedback conversation like this can help both you and the other person grow, can build trust in your relationship, and can improve results.  

Since formulas help us remember concepts, here’s another from Kim Scott of Radical Candor Inc.

Care Personally + Challenge Directly = Radical Candor™ (4 minute video here)

A framework for Radical Candor, featured on Chandler Coaches: Leader: Step Into Your TruthSay what you think, with this caveat: You need to care personally and challenge directly to have impact.

For a full explanation, watch: The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss. (It’s 21 minutes).

It’s time to challenge our belief that bad things happen if we speak our truth.  The truth is, bad things can happen when we don’t speak up. Bad things can happen when we avoid asking for candid feedback, too. Something to ponder.


The Fast Feedback Test²

When is it appropriate to speak your truth? When is it a fast feedback conversation and when does it need to be a longer coaching conversation?

  1. Will the information be useful to the recipient?  Y/N
  2. Do I have a trust-based relationship in place that will support the conversation? Y/N
  3. Is the behaviour change critical for the individual’s success? Y/N
  4. Will the feedback be new or surprising to hear? Will the data fall into a blind spot for the individual and perhaps be shocking to him/her? Y/N
  5. Will the behaviour change take significant time, effort, or support? Y/N
  6. Am I personally invested in the behaviour change? Y/N

Yes to #1 and #2 = Jump in with candor in the moment. Remember that improvising in the moment can be powerful.

No to #2 = What would make it worthwhile to build trust in the relationship first?

Yes to #3-5 = Consider a longer coaching conversation.

The deciding question is #6. If your answer is no – i.e., you don’t care personally and are not vested in helping with the change — you might be wasting your breath.


¹These examples of the ways leaders withhold comes from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp.

² The Fast Feedback Test is modified from The Extraordinary Coach by John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett.

Images and metaphor help us tell great stories. They help us explain concepts that we struggle to explain with words alone.  

The next 3 minutes could change the way you see the world. Please watch.

Now tell me, dear leader…where are you?

If your answer is “below the line”, take heart.  

Simply notice it and ask yourself: “Am I ready to shift to be above the line in this moment?”  

I do this many times a day. While I still go below the line a lot, I also notice often. When I notice, I often choose to shift. I’ve been practicing over and over again for a year and a half.  And almost magically, after lots of practice I now feel like I am living on purpose, open to what is and seeing my life full of abundance.

I am grateful to The Conscious Leadership Group for capturing so concisely what I believe about leadership in our life and work. If you’d like to learn more, download their 15 Commitments 2 Pager . If you’re a reader like me, you’ll want the whole book:  The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.


This week, my writing colleague Louise Campbell interviewed my coaching colleague, Tim Edris of the Emerging Leaders Institute, to get his view on leadership and how it is evolving.

 

“What got you here won’t get you there,” was coined by business leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith to underscore how leaders need to regularly update the way they lead to keep pace and be effective.

Tim Edris, Emerging Leaders Institute | Chandler Coaches

Tim Edris
Emerging Leaders Institute

 

Enter Tim Edris, of Emerging Leaders Institute in the U.S., who has built his reputation on helping senior leaders evolve their winning strategies by getting up close and personal with their blind spots and limiting tendencies. His approach to leadership development made him an excellent coach partner for Chandler Coaches.

“Not only have Lisa and I drunk the leadership development Kool-Aid, we’ve even drunk the same flavour in that we embrace the same model of leadership and coaching approach. And we put ourselves through leadership boot-camp continually, too, so that we grow as coaches and leaders to keep pace with the leaders we coach.”

At Lisa’s invitation, I had a chat with Tim to get his views on leadership and how leaders can evolve.

You could say that Tim was “roped into” this specialty.  In the mid-1990s, he was working at Geneva College in Pennsylvania, coaching students on leadership development.  One day, a group of corporate executives came to the college to tackle a ropes (challenge) course.  

“I was fascinated that education, transformation and development happened not only at the university level but also in the business world.  Suddenly, my next step became very clear,” says Tim. He registered for a Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership and, upon graduation in 2000, launched Emerging Leaders Institute with partners.

Effective leaders = successful businesses

Tim describes leadership as both art and science.  What makes businesses effective?  Well, data points to the idea that wherever you find effective leaders, you also find successful businesses.  The converse is also true.  As Bill Adams, co-founder of the Full Circle Group, says, “a company never outperforms its leadership.”

Older ways of leading are simply not able to keep pace with the newer ways of thinking and newer approaches critical to navigating the increasing complexity in the business world. In fact, leaders’ older ways of showing up will actually set up barriers to their effectiveness if they continue to employ them; hence the phrase, what got you here won’t get you there. In order to reach new levels of effectiveness, leaders need to surface their older assumptions about leading, and find new ways of showing-up that match the complexity of the challenge they are facing.  

Even when leaders recognize their old way of operating is no longer working, they are often stymied on how to move ahead.  That’s where Tim and Lisa come in.  

They are among the few hundred executive coaches in North America (there are fewer than 20 in Canada) certified to coach using The Leadership System™.  This best practice program takes an entire leadership team through a year long+ program of assessment, 1:1 coaching, follow-up measurement and team sessions to improve individual and collective leadership.  As leaders become more effective in their own right and as a collective team, business results improve.

These programs are intense! Being a coach means being supportive but it doesn’t always mean being gentle, as Tim will tell you.

“I don’t shy away from feedback, even if it is tough for leaders to hear.  Like the rest of us, they need to be challenged in order to grow.  Typically, the higher a leader is on the org chart , the less willing their direct reports or other employees are to give them any negative feedback.”

Tim says it is only when clients open up to giving and receiving honest feedback  with their boss, peers and teams that effective work and transformation can begin.

My conclusion, based on working with Lisa and interviewing Tim: Poor leadership can hurt people and the business bottom line. Effective leadership creates a distinct competitive advantage and a company people clamber to work for.

It sounds like a hard and worthwhile path to me.

Leadership Metrics – Game Changers for Improving Leadership/Business Effectiveness

What gets measured gets managed/done/improved. This business adage has been burned into the psyche of all business people worth their salt. There is a lot of truth to the saying. As business people, we are very comfortable measuring our performance in sales and production. We’re sophisticated enough to measure our return on investment (ROI) on… Read the full post here

Risking Your Identity to Grow

My colleague Tim Edris and I have the privilege of coaching a senior leadership team through a year-long program called Leader to Leader™ to increase their individual and collective leadership effectiveness. We know empirically that even small increases in overall leadership effectiveness can have a significant positive impact on the business. Many leaders say they… Read the full post here

Just Add Vulnerability

I have a love-hate relationship with math (probably because I am getting worse at it with each passing minute). I do love word formulas, though. They are nice and sticky, as in they are easy to remember and employ. Even my most conflict-averse clients have had success using this structure. Recently a client mustered up… Read the full post here

Feelings: Entertain Them All

The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.  A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest… Read the full post here

Three Cheers for Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge (a well known character in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol--Summary here) was a miserable and miserly business owner who seemingly hated Christmas and people.  He’s known for his Bah! Humbug! response to his nephew’s Merry Christmas. In the novel, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his dreams by his deceased partner Jacob Marley.  Marley’s ghost… Read the full post here

Leaders: Step Into Your Truth

Fact: Many of the leaders I coach are scared to say what they really think to their people. They withhold facts¹: One of my direct reports is interviewing elsewhere. They withhold thoughts and opinions: I don’t support expanding into the US market right now. They withhold feelings: I feel anger that I was not consulted… Read the full post here

Dear Leader: Where Are You?

Images and metaphor help us tell great stories. They help us explain concepts that we struggle to explain with words alone.   The next 3 minutes could change the way you see the world. Please watch. Now tell me, dear leader…where are you? If your answer is “below the line”, take heart.   Simply notice… Read the full post here

Lean on Me: Partnering to Help Leaders Keep Pace

This week, my writing colleague Louise Campbell interviewed my coaching colleague, Tim Edris of the Emerging Leaders Institute, to get his view on leadership and how it is evolving.   “What got you here won’t get you there,” was coined by business leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith to underscore how leaders need to regularly update the… Read the full post here

Signaling a Lane Change

You’re driving on a fast highway and a car swerves into your lane without any notice.  Your reaction might range from a gentle head shake (tsk, tsk) to jamming on the brakes to ending up in a car crash if you don’t have enough time to react. Signaling a lane change is the law on… Read the full post here

Feedback: A Formula to Face and Embrace

Is feedback important?  We’d all say a resounding, “Yes!” Yet how many of us ever ask for feedback on our leadership? Or ask what’s expected of us, both the spoken and unspoken? And how many of us make giving/getting feedback part of our everyday? Feedback is merely information that helps us know whether we are… Read the full post here