Dear Boss, you are...

A Forbes article about Meg Whitman got me thinking about the importance of difficult conversations with our upper managers. Here is the story and a few hints to get ready for that kind of conversation.


“This is you Tom, You’re too pushy – you’re not letting us build consensus leadership”

That's what Meg Whitman (current CEO of HP and former CEO of eBay) wrote to her manager on an early stage in her career. Yes, she wrote it. She used a marker and a near by board when he said he didn't want to hear her feedback. Now the story also accounts how he ended up appreciating the message. Once he was able to digest it.

As I see it, managers and executives are usually good at what they do. They built their companies or they made them bigger. They set the vision for their departments or organizations. They know how things should be and they execute to achieve that. They are usually vocal about it. 

Maybe this why it is no easy task to approach them to say I disagree or say you are wrong. 

However, they are not superman or wonder woman. They do not have crystal balls to predict the future. They do have flaws. They are prone to unsound decisions. They can have attitudes which do not favor the team or the organization. 

What they do have is a team. 

This is why having someone on board willing to stand up and share their own perspective is an extremely valuable asset. Otherwise the only thing they have is a bunch of "yes-man" folks. That may come nice for the ego, but not necessarily for the performance of the organization. 

And a very good manager or executive will end up acknowledging this fact. (If they don’t maybe you should start considering getting another boss…) 

A few points to help you get ready to say something difficult:

1. If you've got to say something difficult, you've got to say it, and say it in the right way. 

2. What is your purpose for the conversation? 

3. What would be the other person´s purpose?

4. What are your concerns? (Gather facts)

5. What could be the other person’s concerns? (yes, try to put yourself on their shoes)

6. What actions would you expect to be taken as per the conversation?

7. Which consequences are you are ready to face if the situation is not resolved?

- Sergio.

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