In a recent online discussion about organizational health, a friend and colleague (JC) noted the importance of having the courage to tell hard truths to one's boss — and of the boss's having the courage to hear honest criticism. My comrade described a Tom Morris anecdote (from If Aristotle Ran General Motors) about a senior manager who had a relationship of trust with a subordinate. In response to a new proposal, the leader would occasionally receive a note of feedback that began:

Dear Jefe de Oro,

If you say so, it will be my hourly concern to make it so. But before I sally forth in service of this, your latest cause, I must tell you with deep affection and respect that you're full of it again. ...

It's not easy to be that frank with somebody who can make or break your career. Some managers aren't worthy of that degree of trust; they aren't able to take a blunt statement of truth without retaliating against the bringer of bad news. But for an organization to endure and to thrive, its leaders have to be strong enough — wise enough — mature enough — to hear the truth and to cherish those at lower levels who dare to speak it. Otherwise, the honest workers will find another home ... and the ones who are left will give the bosses what they deserve.

Saturday, March 17, 2001 at 19:22:54 (EST) = 2001-03-17


(correlates: Randy Pausch, WhatPhysicsIs, BluickGame, ...)