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Chris LoCurto

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July 11, 2012

Why Your Opinion Matters

Years ago, I was asked to join a group evaluation on some animated video clips. The clips were going to precede lessons for a friend’s video product. It’s something that we do here, so I was honored to jump in. I also knew many of the team members, including the ones who had created the clips we were about to view.

As they played, I was immediately surprised by the quality. You could tell that some folks worked really hard to create them, but they were nowhere as good as the rest of the video.

As the owner talked through each one, I scanned the room and looked at the faces of the team members. I was trying to get a read on what they were thinking. Finally, I realized they were all too afraid to say anything. So I did. “Hey, uh … I don’t know about anyone else, but to me … these are terrible. They are nowhere near the quality of the lessons, and I think they will considerably reduce the overall quality. I think these are unacceptable to send out of this building.”

It went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. The owner, my friend, was not happy at all. He was upset because he had asked his team to produce something that he knew wasn’t going to work. As I looked around the room, you could see the relief on the faces of those who agreed with me.

I later pulled some of those folks aside and told them, “You have to speak up. It doesn’t matter if the owner is upset. Don’t allow sub-par quality to leave the building. It could have affected your ability to make money. Your personal opinion may be the difference between an OK outcome and a great one. Click to Tweet

They all agreed, but I knew they would always be afraid to speak up to the owner. I understood.

Later that evening, I had dinner with the owner and his wife. I was surprised when he apologized and thanked me for speaking up. He explained that he was trying to find a way to use the clips that his team has spent so much time on. But just because they had worked really hard wasn’t a good enough reason to ruin the already-great product. He then thanked me for having the … uh … confidence to say something.

Speaking up in situations takes maturity from both the person giving their opinion and the person(s) receiving it. It won’t always be as well accepted as it was in this case. Sometimes, it will be better. The decision must be made on how sharing or not sharing will affect you and those around you.

Question: How do you ensure that your team is giving their real opinions instead of what you want to hear?

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  • http://www.ricardoequips.com RicardoEquips

    As a matter of fact, I have to say something about the quality of one of my team members websites today. His spelling and proof reading is off. I don’t want anyone to judge him or his character based upon grammatical errors. We’ve had this new lady on our team who is an experience writer and proof reader. I am going to have to go to him and let him know what’s up, tell him how much I love his work, passion, and commitment to the team. And afterwards I am going to see if he will accept the “the new girl” as the team member who will proof read all website content. I will see how he takes it. Maybe I will come back and let you all know how it goes. Pray for me.

  • BeLegendary1

     @ChrisLoCurto  Wow.  So much wisdom in these comments it’s unbelievable.  This one topic of ‘speaking truth’ can be a book Chris!
     
    In business and in life, what is right is more important than who is right.  You get a group of people who all believe that regardless of titles and cool stuff happens.
     
    One other thought that has helped me:  “Speak the truth with grace and love.”   By definition love has grace at it’s core. Throwing “grace” into the equation challenges me when I want to take the expression “tough love” to the extreme.   It also helps deter my heart when I want  to “teach people a lesson”.  I find it ironic how we expect so much grace extended to us when we mess up but withhold that from others.    Where is my heart?  What is my motivation?  Is this about my ego?  Challenging questions to consider when ‘speaking the truth’.

    • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

       @BeLegendary1  @ChrisLoCurto I think that’s a tweetable phrase – “In business and in life, what is right is more important than who is right.” Love the thought of grace and love – in the nonprofit where I work, grace is a huge part of our everyday, but you are right – we need to be as free in extending it as we are in expecting it.

      • JoshuaWRivers

         @CarolDublin Tweeted!

  • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

    Chris, this is a great story and has inspired much thought and conversation. Here is my list of responses:
    1. Hard work is not a synonym for high quality.
    2. Relationships go through stages of growth – obviously this group was in the “like you too much to hurt your feelings” stage.
    3. It takes a lot of love and guts to be able to speak (and to hear) hard truths.
    4. The Bible says to “speak the truth in love” because that is the best way.
    5. It takes a lot of time to build the trust necessary to be completely honest.
    6. Maybe the owner sub-consciously knew they were bad and was hoping an outsider would break the news.
    7. “a pregnant pole-vaulter”? That’s rich!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

       @cabinart  Agree with #7… :-)

  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=36736095&trk=tab_pro TroyD

     
    Another great and timely post Chris.  My company is in the process of creating a new logo.  After hiring a company to do this and not liking the result, I was earmarked as the “creative guy” and put in charge of a committee to create a better one.  I design buildings, not logos!  The problem is getting a group of leaders who don’t speak up to agree on something (Telepathically I guess)!  To make things worse some are color blind (but still have a strong opinion on color)!  The kind of opinion that says “I absolutely hate that, but I’m not going to tell you why!”  But this may be my time to shine in a new company…  The challenge has been set, and the company wide backing will be better with a internal design!!

    • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

       @TroyD If I were you, I’d find a few logos I liked, then ask who the designer is. Logo design is difficult, very very difficult. Having an idea still isn’t completing the design. And every design can be massaged, polished, adjusted, revised and improved. Find a good designer!! 
       
      Here is the site for the best designer I know: http://www.madisonalley.net/logo.html
       
      And if color-blind people say they don’t like a color, it is probably because there isn’t enough contrast involved. Keep the color, but put something lighter or darker next to it so it shows up better for the color-challenged.
       
      Good luck, and if the link doesn’t work, you can email me privately for the info. I’m serious as a heart attack – Mark of Madison Alley is a GENIUS. (not to mention great to work with and very fairly priced)

      • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=36736095&trk=tab_pro TroyD

         @cabinart thanks for the site.  It looks like they have a great approch to design.  I wish I had more freedom.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

    Speaking up can be hard. In business, relationships, and life in general. Like you said, it’s needed badly. 
     
    One way to get your team to give more honest and open feedback is to provide an anonymous dropbox to give their opinions. No names, no identifications. Just the facts of the matter. 

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @JosephLalonde Great idea to start down the path! Ultimately I think you’d like a culture where everyone is comfortable doing it in person. But for someone who hates conflict, that may always be the preferred way

      • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

         @Skropp  Yeah, it’s a start and an easy way to make people comfortable giving honest feedback. Another way that I’ve recently learned is to interact with your people as much as possible. It creates a kinship that allows the honesty to flow.

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

    Am I late to the party today! Such great comments!!!  Keeping the peace and respecting everyone’s efforts does not have to be opposite to delivering outstanding quality 100% of the time.  It is not pretty when providing honest feedback hurts someone’s ego.  The leader could have figured out that the quality of the animated clips did not match the rest of the product and that it would “trashify” (how’s that for the glossary?) the whole thing.
     
    I have a terrible time providing bad feedback to someone.  However, I have learned that hurting and doing harm are two different things.  You may hurt their feelings, but you’re not out to harm them, but to help them.  That makes it run smoother.   Not too long ago I asked a colleague if he would pay what we charge our clients for our product, with the quality he had delivered.  He had to admit he had never thought of it that way.  And his answer was no, I wouldn’t pay that much. 
     
    Being the recipient of such feedback is not easy either. It takes maturity and humility.  Great post!!

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @lilykreitinger I love that question!! Great way to look at it AND provide tactful feedback

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @lilykreitinger Wow!!! That was an eye opening question!! Well played Lily. 

    • CabinetDoork

       @lilykreitinger
      Lily flips it on him.  “Would you pay what we charge for what we deliver?”  POW – ER – FUL!!!  Does that put us in our customers shoes or what?  Very nice, Lily.

  • John Briese

    Very very tough problem for the strong D leader.  My personality type has made this very difficult for those around me to “safely” speak up! So how do I become warm and fluffy? Big chore and not accomplished over night. 
    Start by listening, listening, listening and refrain from reacting in any negative way.
    Find ways to highlight someone else’s idea and shower them with credit.
    Explain to my leadership team exactly what they are dealing with, with me!
    And EVERY time I handle this poorly, apologize! 
    Any other ideas from you D’s out there? 

    • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

       @John Briese The fact that you recognize your style and put these things into practice means that you are ahead of the curve!  Nice work!

    • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

       @John Briese Always run your thought through the filter of “How would I like to hear this myself?” before opening your mouth.

  • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

    This is a great story!  What a tough situation.  Nice job on speaking up Chris.  Although, we would expect no less from you!
     
    It’s pretty easy to pick on the leader in this situation, so I won’t.  Instead, I think there are two things here to take note of from a team member perspective:
     
    1.) We each need to think of anything we produce as our own product.  Take ownership of it and be honest with yourself.  If you owned it, would you own it?
     
    2.) Too often we let the culture or peer pressure decide our actions.  This is not the way to be great.  If you were seeing your product alone, what would you say? (Clean it up first).
     
    These aren’t easy to do with a proud team behind you, nor with a head-strong leader in front of you.  However, if being the best is important, sometimes you have to fight for it!
     
    I’m sure I will be in a similar situation in the near future.  I will have to remember this post and be brave!!!!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @selfemployedbob Love it Bob!!! Especially the ownership. It changes everything. 

  • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

    Chris, do you think you would still have expressed your opinion if others in the room spoke up first? The way I read your telling of the story made it sound like you were encouraged and emboldened to speak because of the silence of others.  Still, it is a good thing you spoke up.
     
    Scanning the comments seems to put a lot of focus on the leader being open to feedback, and I agree. However, I think it is important to have feedback and opinions based on something more substantial than the leader. That is, opinions should derive from the company’s purpose, mission, and values. In the story above, your opinion was based on a level of quality that the organization valued.
     
    The best way to ensure that your team shares opinions and not fluff, is to ensure your team lives up to the organization’s purpose, mission, and values.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Jon Henry That’s a great question. I most likely wouldn’t have said anything that was already spoken. I would have let them do their thing and filled in the blanks where needed. 
       
      And you’re right about the organizations purpose, missions, and values. As a leader, you have to make sure those are in place to allow that type of response. 

    • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

       @Jon Henry “opinions should derive from the company’s purpose, mission, and values.” – exactly! That is part of professionalism. If a person is thinking of himself and his ego before the good of the company, it skews the path to excellence.

  • http://www.i-never-fail.blogspot.com/ Craig Stumpf

    I have had the habit of contacting former bosses, about 6 months after I was employed by them, to discuss the good and bad of me in my role (this may be because of a downsizing, my boss moving out, my change of jobs, etc.). I call them up and ask them to give me feedback on at least one thing I did well and one thing I could improve on. It has helped me to grow tremendously, because I need the feedback. I also ask for that on my blog, from friends, new readers, folks I’ve never met, etc.
     
    If asked, I give honest feedback too, because we all need to grow.
     
    Final thought, is that I take specific opportunity to give positive feedback (and thanks) whenever possible, whether I’m asked or not, because that impacts people, and it creates credibility, plus we all need encouragement, even if we are failing in something.
     
    Good thoughts, Chris!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

       @Craig Stumpf  That’s something I need to learn.  How to ask for feedback and receive it humbly.

      • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

         @lilykreitinger  @Craig Stumpf It was probably the most difficult this I did as a leader. Especially a decently young leader. PLUS, I’m a high I/D. Very difficult, but very powerful. 
         
        Great stuff Craig!!

        • http://www.i-never-fail.blogspot.com/ Craig Stumpf

           @ChrisLoCurto  @lilykreitinger I didn’t always receive it humbly, but it was invaluable to me and taught me some very important lessons…

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

       @Craig Stumpf That’s an awesome way to get feedback Craig. I bet those former bosses were pretty shocked and awed by your willingness to ask for that type of opinion!

      • http://www.i-never-fail.blogspot.com/ Craig Stumpf

         @JosephLalonde They were shocked, for sure, but i was too, because i often got more positive than negative feedback, although the negative feedback hurts more and seems more pointed. If I didn’t ask, though, I would not have grown and improved…

        • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

           @Craig Stumpf  @JosephLalonde Growth is painful. It requires a lot of self-discipline and maturity to just sit and listen instead of defending and arguing. 

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

           @Craig Stumpf That’s great. I’m sure the negative feedback was painful but do you think it was more beneficial than the positive?

        • http://www.i-never-fail.blogspot.com/ Craig Stumpf

           @JosephLalonde The hard things, in life, are always more painful, but more beneficial too…those negatives helped hone my character and improve areas that were weak.

  • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

    To some (perhaps most) people this may seem obvious, but here is what I learned as a 26-year old executive of a fast-growing company…I was way in over my head.
     
    1. Never, ever dismiss anyone’s idea, feedback, or information within 10 minutes of receiving it. 
     
    1a. There are only two proper responses to anything a team member brings: 
     
    “Wow, that is a great idea / Thank you for sharing that / I never saw it that way…that is great.”
     
    “Let me think about that”
     
    2. Never shoot down anyone’s idea in public, especially if they don’t know about it first.
     
    3. You don’t have to sugarcoat it, but you also don’t have to be a jerk about it.
     
    Simple lessons, learned the hard way.
     
    I’ve often thought back on my early days as a reluctant, scared, and clearly unqualified leader and discovered that after 3 years of belittling others and thinking I am the smartest person in the room (and worse…sometimes actually being it), that the information flow from the team had stopped.  I had become THAT boss.
     
    We paid the price for it too…

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @MattMcWilliams2 Kinda looks like the start of a great post Matt…tons of burnt rice here!! Thanks for sharing.

      • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

         @Skropp  You’re thinking what I was thinking :) Burnt rice…LOL

    • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

       @MattMcWilliams2 You picked up on something I missed in Chris’s original post, but it’s a very important item — Your #1 point, to not jump on the idea immediately. Even Chris pondered for a while and took the temperature of the room before making his statement. You don’t want to speak out of emotion, but to consider well the words you’re about to use and the impact they may have before speaking, and the outcome you’re trying to produce. Excellent!

      • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

         @Bret There were plenty of times after I learned that lesson that I had to bite my tongue…hard. Sometimes people would pitch ideas that were so off the wall or even against our core beliefs that I wondered where they had been working for the past two years. But I kept my mouth shut and said “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s talk about it more after the meeting so I can understand fully.” (for example). 
         
        At first I had to force myself to do that. I wasn’t genuine. I realized non-genuine pats on the back were better than genuine “you’re stupid”s any day of the week. 
         
        Soon I found that if we really did dig into the idea, there were parts of it that actually were pretty good. Some people just had trouble communicating them on the fly. One particular “really dumb” idea that I did initially shoot down in front of everyone (literally an entire staff of 40 at the time) actually ended up being a game changer for the company. Oops.
         
        I guess I finally realized that I would rather get 1 get idea and 10 bad ones from team members than no ideas at all. 

        • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

           @MattMcWilliams2  @Bret Matt!!! I love this!! It’s this kind of transparency that not only makes great leaders, it makes great TEAM members!!! Great great stuff here!!! 

        • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

           @MattMcWilliams2 “Non genuine pats on the back were better than genuine ‘you’re stupids’ ”  That’s a new thought to me. (and a possible blog post idea for someone around here)
           
          And you are very wise in recognizing that there are often good ideas buried under poor communication. That sounds like another possible blog post idea!

        • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

           @cabinart Whoever should write it though? :)
           
          It occurred to me as I wrote that exactly how true it (“Non genuine pats on the back were better than genuine ‘you’re stupids’ “) is though. Suddenly I realized that:
           
          A fake smile is better than a real scowl.
           
          A forced compliment is better than a heartfelt insult.
           
          A stiff ‘thank you’ is better than being feeling unappreciated.
           
          A limp hug is better than being left alone.
           
          A belated birthday card is better than none at all.
           
          To some, a call from a wrong number is better than no calls.
           
          An open door is better than a closed one.

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @MattMcWilliams2  @cabinart I’m not sure I agree with these — I think I’d prefer the genuine to the artificial in every case, even if it wasn’t comfortable at the moment. I’d prefer the real scowl to the fake smile….
           
          I’d rather have someone tell me their honest opinion than lie to me with a smile on their face.
           
          I’d rather have them tell me my idea stunk to the high heavens than pay me a meaningless compliment.
           
          I’d rather have them tell me nothing than pay me lip service with a “thank you” that rang hollow.
           
          I’d rather have no hug at all than one that didn’t come from the heart.
           
          I agree that a late card is better than no card, and in fact, I agree with the rest of your list. But those first few? I guess I don’t, my friend. And when I say I disagree with respect, I really do mean it — from everything you’ve said here today, you have earned my respect and admiration, so please accept my disagreement in the spirit of dialogue that it’s intended, not as condemnation.
           
          Do you see where I’m coming from?

        • http://www.cabinart.net/ cabinart

           @Bret  @MattMcWilliams2 Obviously every personality has a different set of preferences. I tend to prefer truth, regardless of the discomfort. 
           
          Brings to mind Proverbs 27:5-7 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
           
          The bottom line is do things with love (“Love Works”!) and be polite.
           
           

        • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

           @cabinart @Bret No offense taken at all Bret. I don’t agree with myself sometimes…OK often.
           
          Let me explain how I meant them coming from my perspective at that time.
           
          A fake smile is better than a real scowl.
           
              I was a generally grumpy person. I scowled not because you (you being anyone near me at that time that worked with me) failed at a project or showed up late. I scowled because you dared to interrupt me while I was thinking. Or because you dared to expect me to show up on time for a meeting. Or…you get the point.
           
          A forced compliment is better than a heartfelt insult.
           
          A stiff ‘thank you’ is better than being feeling unappreciated.
           
              Same for these two…
           
          A limp hug is better than being left alone.
           
              I suck at hugs, so keep that in mind :)
           
          All of those were meant to play off the fact that I had to fake it first and then feel it. 
           
          I played competitive golf in college and professionally for a short time. I worked with a sports psychologist in college and we stumbled on something on day that really helped me. It might seem obvious but at the time it was quite the breakthrough for us.
           
          ***As I stood behind the short visualizing it, I smiled at the result. I smiled. We found through testing that essentially what it did was two things: 1. It rewired my brain to see the result as a positive experience and 2. It released good endorphins and to some extent we believed dopamine into my system. The end result was that I felt calmer and more positive about the shot.
           
          Hope that explains it. Thanks Bret for challenging me on my own thoughts there!
           

        • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

           @cabinart  @Bret Oh I forgot the one part…
           
          The smiled, at first, was completely forced. Totally contrived. Not genuine.
           
          But it still worked…at least better than not smiling at all.
           
          Over time, it became a part of my pre-shot routine. Over time, I enjoyed smiling. And over time it felt more natural and effective.

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

          In other words…fake it ’til you make it. : )

        • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

           @lilykreitinger Yes ma’am! 
           
          I stood here for 30 seconds earlier trying to think of that phrase and couldn’t. Thanks!

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

          @MattMcWilliams2 @lilykreitinger I completely get that. :-)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

       @MattMcWilliams2 You’ve picked up some great insights at such a young age. The beauty of what you’ve pointed out is that they’re applicable not just in business but in other areas of your life. Marriage, friendships, family can all benefit from responding in this manner.

      • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

         @JosephLalonde Young? Who you callin’…oh wait, thanks! :)

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ JosephLalonde

           @MattMcWilliams2 Haha, well I saw the 26 years old part of the comment. That’s pretty young to learn such an important lesson. 

  • http://epicenterlanguages.com.mx/our-blog Aaron Nelson

    Real opinions from your team? I echo @coffeemaverick  here – you have to prove to them first that you’re worthy of their honesty. I think it’s a matter of earning their trust, and being brave enough to ask for it. 
     
    I think there’s another point to this post, at least for me. I tend to avoid giving negative opinions because I’m the classic peace keeper. (It feels like I wear an invisible  blue UN peace keeping helmet everywhere I go.) That’s both a strength for me, and a weakness. It’s hard for me to express negative emotions or opinions both in my marriage and in my business. I wonder…how would you go about building and flexing that muscle more? 

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @Aaron Nelson @coffeemaverick Awesome comments brother! I am often the peace keeper too, I just don’t wanna deal with the hassle of starting fights a lot of times (so maybe I’m more lazy than peace keeper, hmm…please withhold judgement! Haha). How do we get better and Providing negative feedback? Here’s a thought I had hike reading your comment: a peace that is based on just not voicing your concern or disagreement is a false peace and really not peace at all. Maybe if you and I realize and remind ourselves of that we’ll be more prone to speak up… Just a thought.

    • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

       @Aaron Nelson  What do you think about writing those negative things down?  Maybe that would be less confrontational, at least to begin with.  Of course at some point you have to face those issues.  Your team and your wife will appreciate you more when you do!

      • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

         @selfemployedbob  @Aaron Nelson The only problem I see with this is that the written word has great power to be misinterpreted. I love giving positive comments in written form because they can be posted, held, filed, and referred back to whenever the recipient needs to be reaffirmed, and if they want to misconstrue exactly what I meant by “You did a great job, you Rockstar, you!” then that’s generally okay by me.
         
        But if I’m offering negatives, I’d hate to see those get circulated, or become food for self-doubt later. I’d much rather deliver those in a controlled fashion, in an environment I could have some measure of control over. If I need this to be one-on-one, for instance, I can ensure that face-to-face. A note could be opened in a crowd and its contents passed around.
         
        I think there’s too much value in being able to read the other person and see how my feedback is being absorbed to leave it to the written word.

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @selfemployedbob  @Aaron Nelson That said, you might be able to make it work. I’m not talking absolutes.  :-)

        • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

           @Bret  @Aaron Nelson Totally agree Bret!  I was just suggesting that Aaron right it down for himself.  I know that sometimes by writing things down, it helps give me confidence to say something.  Otherwise, it’s easy to let self-doubt talk you out of saying something, especially if you are a “peace-maker” like he was saying.
           
          Great point though, if you write it down, make sure to do it in code, so nobody else can read it.  ;)

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @selfemployedbob  @Aaron Nelson That makes a ton of sense. Good point, Bob, and I often write things down to help clarify my thinking. Fortunately for me, my handwriting is a kind of code….

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Aaron Nelson  @coffeemaverick @Skropp @Bret @selfemployedbob Aaron, I would love for you to change the way you perceive your “negative” opinions. If it’s something that’s going to grow a person, then it shouldn’t be considered negative. If it will not edify the person, then by all means don’t say it. Using those guidelines, I think you can rethink the comments and proceed with caution or confidence. 
       
      I don’t want someone to just come and spew what’s their thoughts of how bad I am. But I would love….hmmmm…accept someone coming to me and sharing some areas I could grow and be better. Especially if it’s done with ME in mind, not someone’s selfish desires. Make sense? 

  • coffeemaverick

    We have a staff of 70 people at Dillanos Coffee Roasters. We have been nominated for “Top place to Work” here in the Puget Sound area several times, and won THE top place to work twice. Every year for the last few years I have given an evaluation form to my staff asking them to rate and comment on my strengths and weakness. I hand them out in person and tell them to be honest. I am very open with my staff so the answers ARE brutally honest. They are free to be anonymous but most employees put their names on them. They know I am truly  trying to improve myself. The reason I am able to get such candid and helpful responses is, and this is the answer to the question, BECAUSE OF HOW I REACT TO THEIR CANDID AND HELPFUL RESPONSES!! I don’t get defensive. I sincerely thank them for their honesty and go on about the business of becoming a better leader.

    • http://epicenterlanguages.com.mx/our-blog Aaron Nelson

       @coffeemaverick Boy do I like what you said here. I think you hit the nail on the head – to get honest feedback from your team, you have to tell them and show them that you want to receive it. And when you receive it, you take whatever they say with humility. This should be part of a leadership 101 course. 

      • coffeemaverick

         @Aaron Nelson WURD!! (that’s a LoCurtoism)

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

          We have a glossary full of those. ;-)

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @coffeemaverick There’s an hour worth of knowledge in a single comment! Hey, that’s about how long an EntreLeadership podcast is…hmmmmci wonder if anyone here could get you to be interviewed on an upcoming episode of the podcast……..

      • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

         @Skropp  @coffeemaverick No, you have to know people.

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

         @Skropp  @coffeemaverick  We can arrange that. There are subtle tactics that can be used.  HEY CHRIS!  You NEED to get David Morris on the podcast!!!!  There!

        • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

           @lilykreitinger  @Skropp  @coffeemaverick Oh trust me, I’ve secretly been working on it for awhile. I’m trying to get coffee for life out of David. 

    • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

       @coffeemaverick You are awesome!  Your comment makes me realize how far off things are where I’m at currently.  I applaud your efforts to improve yourself as a leader.  I’m sure that kind of humility earns a lot of respect from your team.  Amazing!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @coffeemaverick And that’s a huge reason why we get along to well!! There are few of us leaders out there who are willing to go to this length to be better. Twelve years ago I set up a meeting for my team members to have the chance to tell me what’s wrong with my leadership. Every two months they had a one-on-one with me with that opportunity. Crazy thing is it grew us BOTH!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

       @coffeemaverick  Sadly, how many leaders would never DREAM of asking for such feedback, or how many team members really like to keep their name on the payroll and never DARE to speak the truth.   Your team is blessed to have you as their leader.

    • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

       @coffeemaverick I started doing that too “back in the day.”
       
      The first time I did it, it really sucked. I knew I was not a good leader at the time, but it felt like I got punched in the gut. That was the first time I honestly felt like I should walk away. I didn’t see a way out of the hole I had dug.
       
      But I decided to take each fault, each area of improvement and rate them based on two things: 1. how bad I was (based on average score of the feedback) and 2. how quickly I thought I could improve.
       
      I got a mentor, read voraciously and developed an action plan.
       
      I focused on one single area of improvement for one month at a time. I had listed 7 core areas of improvement. In 7 months, I would be a completely different (better) leader. I figured within 3 months I would be at a neutral point (not great but not awful). Within 6 months I would start to develop trust back. And within 1 year I would actually be able to lead effectively.
       
      Here were those 7 areas:
       
      1. Leading by example in my arriving to work early and staying until the job was done. I had a rather inconsistent work schedule.
      2. Humility. See my comments above. I truly thought everyone else’s ideas sucked and mine were awesome. 
      3. Active encouragement. Finding the good stuff and actively rewarding it.
      4. Controlling emotions, particularly anger.
      5. Being positive. 
       
      6. Being available and open / Being transparent. I had developed a closed door policy essentially. I had to actively make myself more available.
      7. Holding people accountable. This had to come last because I had to be in a positive position to do this.
       
      I chose #1 first because it was easy. It required no major life changes. It required no learning. It simply required me to commit to getting out of bed earlier, sticking to a morning routine, and showing up by 8:15 every day and staying until 5:30. For one month I did just that with no exceptions. After a month I had the flexibility to get a mid-day long lunch if needed or leave early for the dentist, but for one month I did not.
       
      True to what I hoped, after 3 months I was working the right hours (which lead to #6 being an afterthought in the end), I was more humble and open to others opinions, and was actively encouraging my team. The results were already astounding. 
       
      #4 was super hard for me but I fought through it. So much so that I took 2 months to fully do it right.
       
      Anyway, by the 8 month mark, life had changed. By the end of a year, I read the reviews and realized that I had succeeded in 6/7 areas. I still struggle(d) with #7, holding people accountable.

      • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

         @MattMcWilliams2  @coffeemaverick What an amazing plan. I don’t know very many leaders who would go to that extent! thanks for sharing.

  • MariannaGibson

    I appreciate that my direct leader asks me + seems to truly value my opinion. He is conscious of making that decision to ask me, the one who is in the details + specifics daily of what we’re discussing. That’s a starting point for our discussion on how to make something better.
     
    And if he doesn’t ask me, I know that I’m welcome to bring any situation to him with various solutions that we then discuss together. I have no problem saying something sucks + can be improved before we publish it for the world! Why? Because I know that he won’t think I’m stupid + wants to hear my view + how I can help fix it. I enjoy working with someone who is easy to collaborate with, trusts my competence, allows me professionally grow + will ultimately make a decision once he’s done his research.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @MariannaGibson Sounds like a great company culture!! It’s neat to see companies that are being ran right!

    • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

       @MariannaGibson I love the idea of encouraging you to not just present the problem, but to bring several possible solutions. It’s a great way to learn how to problem solve, but also to understand the kinds of solutions your leader is looking for. Collaboration is so important

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @MariannaGibson And you’re an amazing team member because of it, aren’t you?! Well, that and because you’re just naturally amazing. 

  • http://www.churchthought.com/ Matt Steen

    This sits squarely on the shoulders of the leader of an organization.  The leader sets and maintains the culture, and if that person is ok with “real opinions”, even ones that contradict their beliefs, the rest of the organization will follow suit (with occasional adjustments).A recent client of mine liked to tell everyone how much they loved when people pushed back on their ideas.  They went on to tell me that it is one of the primary things that they valued in a staff team… blah, blah, blah.  I have learned that when a person needs to tell everyone that they are, or believe, something… it generally isn’t the case.  Sure enough, it wasn’t.  The pattern was that a new person would believe the desire for feedback was there, only to get blasted in the meeting for disagreeing.  Later the leader would apologize in private, conceding that they were right on some of their points.  The leader thought that they were “open to critique” because of this strategy… but really, they just browbeat people into submission and the organization is firmly entrenched in mediocrity because of the leader’s actions.
     
    Leaders need to channel their inner Lencioni and lean into conflict… or embrace mediocrity for good.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @Matt Steen Love your observation about people that tell you what they believe!! I totally agree. It’s like when people use the phrase “to be completely honest…” haha. Always makes me wonder what they are usually..

      • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

         @Skropp   Whenever someone asks me if they can be honest with me I usually reply, “No, please continue to lie to me.” It usually stops them in their tracks for a moment, long enough for me to smile and let it sink in.

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

          @Bret I usually say “what were you doing before”. Haha. I have a friend who will say this one “I’m not trying to be mean..” which is usually followed by a mean comment haha.

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @Skropp  I think there’s a whole family of those: “I don’t want you to take this personally, but…”, “I don’t mean to insult you, but…”. In fact, pretty much any statement that ends with a “but” and then continues into the thing they were about to say!

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

          @Bret Haha yup. I LOVE ’em. I can’t help but laugh when someone says one of them! “With all due respect” is another!

        • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

           @Bret  @Skropp Like banks advertising “honesty” as a feature that sets them apart from other banks. Really?

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @Jon Henry  @Skropp Ha! Love it.

      • http://eselfemploymentideas.net/ selfemployedbob

         @Skropp  Funny, I got chastised for saying that too much at my last job, “to be honest”.  My old boss freaked out on me one day and said, “you haven’t been honest with me all this time?”.  I’ve since stopped saying that.  ;)

    • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

       @Matt Steen It’s incredibly hard offering up an idea and then remaining quiet as everyone else around the table slices, dices, juliennes and otherwise ginsus that idea. But sometimes, those pieces get reassembled into something even better. If I keep my tongue and let the process work, magic happens. If I get defensive, it often ends either with my original idea standing, or with it being tossed out wholesale.
       
      The more I see the wisdom of “all of us” at work, the more I’m willing to give up my inherent desire for credit and let the team or someone else “win” the accolades, the more I realize that “we” win, and that’s far more important.
       
      Plus, the more I do it, the better the feedback gets!

      • http://www.churchthought.com/ Matt Steen

         @Bret Exactly!  The added benefit of this process is the fact that the slice and dice keeps us humble.  
         
        If you are a great leader without humility… you probably aren’t.

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @Matt Steen My favorite definition of humility came from my pastor back in Colorado: “Fully reliant on God”. It reminds me that humility has nothing to do with passing on credit or falsely denying achievement or anything like that. It’s keeping in the forefront of my mind that every achievement I have because of God’s grace and mercy.

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

          @Matt Steen @Bret I LOVE that phrase Matt! You are SO getting tweeted “if you are a great leader without humility…you probably aren’t” ha!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Matt Steen OH MY GOSH!!! I hate when “leaders” do that. Those people aren’t leading others, they are dictating! 
       
      Both Lencioni and Collins told me on the podcast that places like Intel have a culture of, “If you disagree, you are required to disagree!” They have meetings when binders are being tossed across the room because people are so… passionate? :-) But when they leave, they are ALL in agreement. 
       
      You can’t get that when the leader slays you for speaking up with your opposing position. 

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

        I say just hand out some hard hats and let the fun begin!

  • CabinetDoork

    Is it safe to step on toes?
    “Stepping on toes” comes too easilty to me.  (Born of love and service, of course.)  So, it was quite a shock to me when I realized that we had a passive consensus problem in our company.  Really, people are afraid to step on toes?  So, I strongly encouraged everyone to step on my toes Comedy Central Roast style.  I took notes, never defended myself (ok, bit my tounge), and committed to improvement on their suggestions.  You know what?… We found others in our company who also have the gift, they just weren’t sure if they could use it.  The point is, you must have a culture that is willing to step on toes or accept mediocrity.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @CabinetDoork Comedy central roast huh? Pretty intense!! But I see you made it through. I love your point about just not realizing that the culture doesn’t allow that communication… It’s so easy to THINK we know what the culture is, and be waaay off!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @CabinetDoork Awesome brother! Great way to bring that out. Probably not for everyone :-), but knowing you, it was right on. 

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

    I think this comes down to culture. If your culture is one of acceptance and honesty, then the likelihood that folks will be upset about this for a long time is dramatically lessened.
     
    On the other hand, if your culture is one of secrecy and protectivism and back-room whisperings, then the likelihood that your honest opinion can be spoken without long-term consequences is practically nil. You won’t feel comfortable speaking your mind. Those hearing your honest opinion aren’t likely to hear it in a spirit of openness and camaraderie. They sniping and backstabbing will begin, rumors will take over, and before you know it, someone’s career will be damaged. Yours, theirs, the manager’s who started this…
     
    The whole organization has to be at a place where a free exchange of open, honest ideas can occur. Your organization can’t blindly chase culture, but this has to be baked in from the beginning. It’s core values, it’s DNA. It’s foundational.

    • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

       @Bret That is so true – it’s all about culture. The worst thing is the meeting after the meeting, no one speaks up during the meeting, but then start the derogatory chatter among themselves afterwards. That can tear a team apart. The culture needs to be that honest opinions are valued and encouraged. Like Jim Collins says, it’s great to voice all disagreements during the meeting, but then once a consensus is reached, everyone should support it.

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

        @CarolDublin @Bret Well said Carol! I think that’s a fairly rare thing in today’s business environment, to have open and honest discussion and disagreement, but complete unity once the decision is made!

      • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

         @CarolDublin I once heard someone say that prior to a decision being made, it’s “critique”. Once a decision has been made, it’s “criticism”. Critique is good, desirable, and absolutely essential. Like Intel’s model of “dissent, then unite” or whatever their actual phrase is.
         
        But once a decision has been made, any comments against it are just made to serve the individual. That criticism is not desirable, not positive, not helpful. Should not be part of any organization worth belonging to.

        • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

           @Bret Exactly! I love the distinction you make between critique and criticism. Great points!

        • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

           @Bret  @CarolDublin @Skropp Pat Lencioni told me on the podcast that people do what’s called passive sabotage. They don’t speak up in the meeting, and then through murmurings later, they sabotage the project. Kinda crappy. 

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @ChrisLoCurto  @CarolDublin  @Skropp Exactly.

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

          Critique focuses on the behavior/product/action/results… criticism focuses on the person and can easily turn into character assessination.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @Bret I like that, It has to be baked in..insight add culture cannot be microwaved ;) it’s a long, slow process!

      • http://lcdublin-myprivateuniverse.blogspot.com/ CarolDublin

         @Skropp  @Bret Crock pot culture!

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @CarolDublin  @Skropp Low & Slow, baby. Low & Slow!

  • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

    I don’t think there’s one single thing you can do Chris. I think it’s culture. People have to feel safe that their job or status won’t be affected by being honest. Theyve gotta know that they wont be attacked for their opinion. They have I know that their opinion matters and that it will be taken into consideration, not simply dismissed if it isnt what you wanna hear. They have to have a vested interest in the outcome.
    Bottom line, if you want real opinions you’ve gotta start LONG before that time building a culture where people feel comfortable and safe saying what’s on their minds. It’s a hard, hard thing to accomplish.
    Great example of being a leader Chris!! It’s a lot easier to follow…but followers aren’t exceptional, and they certainly don’t have a community like this one behind them!!

    • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

       @Skropp Hey, I’m an exceptional follower. I followed your comment about culture with my own comment about culture!

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

        @Bret You know what they say, good leaders are great followers ;)

        • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

           @Skropp  @Bret I agree. There’s always someone better than you. If you can’t follow them, how can you lead? 

        • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

           @ChrisLoCurto  @Skropp I sure hope there’s someone better than me! Otherwise, we’re all in deep yogurt.

  • Kentlapp

    Your question is a great one, so important.  I’m terrible at this though.  I’m trying to learn to NOT give my opinion, or even insinuate it, before asking their opinion.  Basic as that is it’s hard for me to do but is really helping.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

      @Kentlapp That is a great point!! Offering your opinion before asking there’s will ensure you get a lot f the same opinion back. Chris did a fantastic interview about this awhile back, can’t remember who it was with, but they said that if ou already made up your mind, do ask everyone’s opinion, and if you haven’t, keep your thoughts to yourself so others will feel free to voice their true opinions. It’s tough to get your team to that point. But wow, what a benefit to have people like Chris around you that will be straight up with you. You GOTTA have those people!!

    • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

       @Kentlapp That’s good — you have to know whether, “What do you think?” really means, “I want your honest opinion” or “I want some affirmation about this.” A good leader, friend, parent, or spouse will try to be sensitive to the difference. And BOY do I need to be reminded about this. A lot….

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Kentlapp @Bret @Skropp It is VERY difficult. The important thing to remember is, it’s your job to make your team successful. If that is top of mind, then you WANT to hear their opinions so you can grow them. Great stuff!!

      • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret

         @ChrisLoCurto  @Kentlapp  @Skropp And sometimes, team = family! This works at home, too. My job as husband and father is to make my wife and kids successful too. That’s what leading my family is all about. Powerful, Chris.