We all know that bad news kills the messenger. So, whenever possible, most of us avoid being the “bearer of bad news.”
The unfortunate result of this “duck and cover” defense is that we miss out. We don’t candidly share with others because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. So, instead, we hurt their growth and impair their opportunities as we let them continue doing things the same old way.
We miss out even more because this is happening to us, too. There are things about us that others have not shared with us… things that we would fix if only we knew about them. Our blind spots can derail our careers, tank our relationships, and hold us back from achieving our dreams. Sadly, we all have these blind spots (often because we choose to be blind to them). And the biggest barrier to learning agility, crucial to success as a leader, is defensiveness.
So how do leaders get insight to overcome these blind spots and barriers? There’s only one way. You cannot see it. Someone else can. You need to get that person (those people!) to tell you about it. In other words, you have to ask them to be the messenger… despite the common knowledge that bad news kills the messenger.
So step one is letting them know that this will not be a death sentence! When they give you bad news, you will accept it graciously. Here’s how:
- Understand that the person sharing with you has the intention of helping you.
- Don’t judge the delivery of the feedback. Just look for the nugget of useful information.
- Accept the feedback with appreciation, even if you do not agree with it. What you are appreciating is that someone shared it with you. You do not have to agree with it, defend against it, or let it hurt you. Just take some time to objectively consider it.
- If emotions bubble up, just ask for some time to process what you’ve heard. Do not respond in anger or hurt! Come back to the subject when you are composed.
- Ask questions to understand what’s been shared. Get objective examples and suggestions for what to do differently.
Just think about the respect you will earn by asking for and hearing feedback about your blind spot(s). What’s more, when you respond by working on the blind spot(s), that respect multiplies. You will earn the right to give others constructive feedback, too. Ultimately, everyone wins if this is handled respectfully and in the spirit of helping one another.
Icing on the cake – with this level of vulnerability and sharing comes deeper connections and trust, too.