Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

I REPEAT MYSELF AND SO SHOULD YOU!

Repeating yourself is an important feature of the top executive role.  Getting a message, concept or a primary goal deeply embedded in your company takes you saying it again and again and again.  Way more than you want to and way more than you think you need to.  So here I am again reminding you of how hard it is to learn and grow when you are at the top of the organization.  This entry was written a few years ago when I, too, was slow to learn as a top executive.  The very role comes with a learning disability.  I quote me.

“Just get promoted to the top?  You may be the dumbest person in the organization or the least able to learn.  The white noise that surrounds you is the roaring lack of real feedback, the ability to know your impact and learn from it.  
Fundamentally, it is YOUR TASK TO ASK for feedback and opinions. And you need to learn to do it in such a way that is makes ti easy for people to talk to you honestly.  Even then, you should magnify the negative by 5 and minimize the positive by 3.  This is the equation to balance unequal power.
More math. If someone has the nerve (and it takes some) to come to you with an important negative about you or the organization –then they have probably  thought about it for at least  three months, talked about it with at least 3 people for corroboration who have talked to 3 people who have talked to three people.  The pain of the issue has to outweigh the risk of your displeasure.  This ratio is true even if you are the most approachable, open, tolerant CEO.  Your position simply weighs too much.
Positive feedback has its own problems and ratio.  I have seen CEO’s wither without some appreciation and recognition and I’ve seen them blossom and flourish with it.  It’s hard to compliment you and give you positive feedback,  It’s awkward.  The kiss-up prohibition can be huge.  And there is a danger element of putting a halo on the person who gives it.  Seduction by flattery is used by ambitious people.  Mostly you can smell it.  So, the ratio is too minimize positive feedback by 3.  First it is easier to give and less important than the negative information you need to hear and understand.
The blind spot here is that you begin to think that it’s as easy for others to talk candidly with you as it is for you to talk candidly with them.  NO.  It isn’t.  You need to know what works for you to hear your company accurately  and what creates positive momentum for  people.  It’s your job to make real conversation about your business easy and productive.  That’s top on your job description as CEO.

5.  You just may be the dumbest person in the whole organization or the least able to learn.  the white noise that surrounds you is the roaring lack of real feedback of ability to know your impact and learn from it.  It is YOUR TASK TO ASK and to do it in such a way that it makes it easy for people to talk to you honestly.  And even then you must magnify the negative by a multiple of five and reduce the positive by a multiple of three.  Depending whether you ask.  If someone has the nerve to come with you on an important negative about you or the organization–then they have thought about it for at least three months, talked about it without least five others for corroboration and reached the point of the scare factor of talking with you weighs less than the day to day pain of the issue.  And this is true if you are the most approachable, open, tolerant CEO/  You position simply weighs too much.  and the positive is the same.  You may be quite wonderful.  In fact , it you are it’s harder to say something positive to you. Awkward making.  If you are not, then the push to want to like the person in charge or the goodies that come from flattery are irresistible.  Still only a multiple of three because it is much easier than the negative.   It is your job to make real conversation about the business with you easy and productive..

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