There’s an old saying that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.
When I deliver keynotes to leaders explaining why Emotional Safety® is the key to making smart decisions, I point out that if people don’t feel safe bringing you bad and/or challenging news, they won’t do it.
Now, on the surface, that might sound pretty nice. You only have to hear about the good stuff. But let me challenge you to think about it another way: You can only make decisions based on the information you have. If people aren’t bringing you the truth about what is happening in the organization, it means you are making decisions with extremely limited information.
Your perspective alone is almost always incomplete.
Getting people to feel “just okay” bringing you “bad” information puts you at a below-average level. You have to strive for more than that. You need people to have the Emotional Safety® to bring you any and all information that could affect your decision-making process.
In our book Step Up, Lead in Six Moments That Matter, we outline the steps to achieving Emotional Safety®. Let’s take a look at how you could put into practice one of the first steps, which is to give the people around you the gift of your invitation.
You might say something like this:
In the past, I may have acted in a way that made you feel I was resistant to bad news — and you know what? Maybe I was. That may have led you to think you should just tell me what I want to hear. Moving forward, please tell me what you think I don’t want to hear. It could be about a customer or vendor problem, an internal issue, or maybe you need to openly challenge a decision or offer feedback on my leadership style. I rely on you to be a second set of eyes and ears for me as I make decisions. So, going forward, please make it a habit of telling me what you think I don’t want to hear.
The more consistently and frequently you ask people to tell you what they think you don’t want to hear, the more they will be willing to try. Make them feel rewarded for doing it, and they will generate a constant flow of what you need to make smart decisions: the truth.
Try giving the people around you the gift of your invitation in one of your next conversations with your team members. Because the reality is, it’s what you don’t know that will usually come back around to hurt you.
If you want to learn more about the value of building Emotional Safety®, check out our post, “Get Angry, Not Stupid™.” You can also take the complimentary “Step-Up Assessment” at dynamicresults.com. For even more practical tools and a deeper dive, consider enrolling in our Emotional Safety® eSchool.