Today was a rough one. I just finished interviewing key leaders of a business to get their candid views of how well the team was functioning. They are investing a lot of money in a business strategy so the stakes are really high. There is a lot of outside scrutiny and plenty of arm chair quarterbacks, especially from the dis-believers. Careers are on the line and the outcome of the gamble is still unknown.

Today was the day to deliver the report to the Division VP on people’s perceptions of what it would take to win. There was a lot of good news. People are committed to the project, enthusiastic about the team and they have a high level of confidence in the odds being in their favor. But, imbedded in the good news was some not-so-good news. At least for the VP. The primary source of concern was related to his management of the organization. Really, really tough news to deliver.

As consultants, sometimes we are hired to speak the truth when no one else will. But, that doesn’t make it any easier. I admit, I questioned whether or not I should filter the message, be politically correct and deferential. But, I chose to take the harder path knowing that it was the right thing to do.

I could see the pain in his eyes as we delved deeper into the report. Surprise, dismay, discouragement all passed across his face. But, to his credit, never denial. This is real leadership. The ability to take candid feedback and recognize truth even when you are the one in the target zone. If they win and accomplish this monster goal, it will be because of a leader who had the courage to be open to reality even when it wasn’t pretty. I’m certainly rooting for them!

If you’re in the role of providing advice, counsel, feedback or coaching to those with their hands on the reins of the organization, it is your job to communicate the truth in an unfiltered way. If you’re the leader, your job is to be open to the truth, even if it’s personally painful. Anything short of this will cause a tangled web of partial truths that your business won’t survive.

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