Why Great Leaders Need Truth Tellers in their lives

Why Great Leaders Need Truth Tellers

cliffhilton Avid Learner, Blog, Feature Blog, Intentional, Job Hopping, Lead Yourself, Recognition, Training

Were your antennae clipped at birth? This is not your typical leadership question, but let’s consider how helpful this question can be. Antennae provide sensory information to insects which helps them better understand their environment. While humans don’t have actual antennae, we use environmental clues to discover how we are perceived by others. Yet not everyone’s antennae work perfectly, and some seem to have had their antennae clipped at birth. Research refers to this as lacking emotional intelligence, but I’ve found that asking if your antennae were clipped gets people’s attention a lot better!

When serving as the Head of Human Resources at Yum! Brands, I frequently got to help people who were stuck in their growth and performance. Have you ever worked with someone who seemed completely unaware of how their attitude and actions impacted others? Me too – and those are the people I describe as having their antennae clipped at birth. For example, consider the person who talks too much in meetings and constantly interrupts others, yet her behavior doesn’t change. Others dread going to meetings and don’t feel heard because she talks all the time. Because her antennae are clipped, she doesn’t realize how her behavior negatively impacts the team. The truth is, some people don’t have antennae to help them navigate their relationships.

We all have blind spots in our lives, even if our antennae work properly. The key to uncovering our blind spots is giving people permission to give us feedback. When we invite people to serve as truth tellers in our lives, we learn and grow. If we don’t have a few truth tellers, we run the risk of staying stuck with behaviors that are ineffective, and possibly destructive, to our success.
I know from personal experience that asking for feedback can be hard because you might be surprised by what you hear. When I was Head of Human Resources at KFC, I was introduced to a feedback exercise and decided to try it out with the Executive Team. We had one minute to complete two statements about each Executive Team Member in a round robin format:
  • What I appreciate about you
  • How you can be more effective
I got more feedback from these two questions than I received in an entire year! Some of it was encouraging, some of it was helpful, and one particular piece of feedback was shocking. During this exercise, I found out that one of my peers thought I was going over his head to send him messages. This information shocked me because that was not my intent. Because my relationship with this peer was important to me, I took action to repair our relationship. We started having regular lunch meetings where I shared what was going on and what I was thinking. And over time, we developed a productive relationship because he shared feedback with me and I took action to make changes.
The Executive Team Round Robin opened my eyes to how powerful this feedback tool can be. And once I understood the power of receiving feedback, I recruited a few people to become my truth tellers. I regularly asked them to give me straight feedback, and they agreed to be honest. Seeking out feedback has helped me become a better leader in both my personal and professional life.
Ken Blanchard coined the phrase, – Feedback is the breakfast of champions. I’m a firm believer in the
truth of this phrase. It’s a simple way to remind you that you need to invite people to give you feedback daily, just like you eat breakfast each day. Both breakfast and regular feedback helps you become more
Were your antennae clipped at birth? Maybe not, but we can all use a few truth tellers in our lives. Who can you invite to be your truth tellers? Once you identify them, use this feedback tool to start the conversation. And remember to seek out that feedback regularly! Building discipline around asking for feedback can help you become a better leader. Who will you ask for feedback today? Download the Truth Tellers Feedback Exercise to help you get started.
David Novak Leadership is all about investing in you and helping you become the best leader you can be. And we invite you to pay it forward by sharing this blog and the feedback tool with others. Who can you share this with today?

Share this Post