Day 356: Affirmation vs information…

…is a timely “and” to Day 355: Prepare them for the road.

To learn how to make your team do more of what they can and what belongs on your stop doing list, continue reading.

There is a biblical saying “you do not have because you do not ask, or you ask with wrong motives.” Most teams become inoculated by cultural norms and by their leaders to give only feedback of affirmation (hence the term “yes men”) vs information. Sadly, as Toto noted in BBTL, it’s also the norm for the executive coaching world to serve as highly-paid cheerleaders vs truth-tellers.

This comes at a high cost — because information the leader could really use–but is blind to–can be obvious to the team around him/her. Consider this final jeopardy question:

What do airplane crashes, patients who die needlessly on operating tables, extinct Fortune 500 companies, and bankrupt households all have in common?

Answer: Someone inside saw it coming — but nothing got relayed to the leader in charge.

If you’re the head of a system, you’re susceptible to CEO disease, meaning you can be the last to know information because teams either assume you already know it, or are afraid to relay it, or believe it’s futile.

Essential to preparing them for the road is giving them courage and making it safe for them to be truth-tellers to each other and YOU–keeping in mind chain-of-command communication is only as good as its weakest link.

Once a measure of trust has been built in earlier BTL team practices, here’s a typical practice formula we facilitate, starting first with information the leader needs to hear, then progressing to other teammates:

  1. Everyone take a proverbial dose of truth syrum and a courage pill, and write CCD about information your leader probably needs it hear (e.g. “what belongs on your leader’s stop doing list?”)
  2. Have the leader take a dose of humility and give the team a “green light” to send their information, one volunteer at a time in front of the rest of the team (everyone has the right to pass and/or defer to 1:1 at a later time). Leader, keep your light green as you ask curious questions — do not defend/deny/destroy.
  3. After each sender, have the leader play back what they heard, seeking clarifications or additions, closing with “thank you.”
  4. Finish with observers giving words of affirmation to the senders and receivers for their courage and humility.
  5. Have everyone write and connect with each other about what they learned in today’s practice.

Is your CORE strong enough to hear information, not just affirmation? Have you given your team a green light to send information, or are mixed signals diss’ing their bids when they try? Is your culture one where information is sent to its proper recipient instead of the gossip network? Are you mastering sending and receiving information through BTL team practice, or is HR and the anonymous suggestion box your cop out?

Reflect. Write. PAs, please?

Done so.

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