Rubbing the Genie
Rub the genie to get three wishes. In organizations, rubbing the genie includes telling leaders what they want to hear.
It’s an act of foolishness or profound friendship
to speak the truth to power.
Subordinates seldom speak hard truths to leaders who have power to assign projects, dispense raises, and give promotions. Everyone loves everything you do. Not!
Power and authority invite flattery.
Unvarnished feedback is a gift that is sought and earned.
Subordinates tolerate your annoying habits and ignore your poor performance – to your face.
Getting honest feedback:
- Stop pretending people tell you the truth about you. Seek and earn the right to hear the truth.
- Deal openly, honestly, compassionately with the failure of others. Make it normal and expected to bring out the hard stuff. If you smooth things over, they smooth things over.
- Be transparent.
- Reward transparency.
- Own your failures and publicly make them right.
- Help people move up and out of your department because it’s good for them, even if it’s hard for you. Prominent self-interest in you, ends honesty from them.
- Expect it, call for it, and explain why it’s important.
- Explore uncomfortable feedback. Don’t correct or defend.
- Talk less.
- Develop candor by exposing as much information as possible. Holding back information is manipulation.
- Address tough issues kindly. When you blow up, they shut up.
- Humble yourself by sharing power. The best humility is self-imposed. Be a little less of the genie and they’ll rub the genie less.
Bonus: Get honest feedback by gently addressing the fear of giving it. Ask yourself why people are afraid to speak the truth.
How can leaders create environments where they receive honest feedback about themselves and their performance?
“Own your failures…publicly” Great post, Dan. So often we are tempted to gloss over failures– after all, our team can’t know they’re led by a regular human being! Worse, the power-hungry seek scapegoats onto whom they can push their failures.
Love this idea of a more open, vulnerable team who learns and grows together.
There’s a bit of a healthy sting to “power-hungry seek scapegoats.” I totally left that out of this post…it’s a great add.
Absolutely. We’ve all done it. In our frustration, we think of under-performing team members or “gaps in the system”. When we get really good, we even plant these gaps to fall back on when something falls through.
How about own your own judgements?
You do know the judgements you make of others are the ones you feel mostly deeply about yourself.
How else do you suppose you recognize these thingy’s?
This spiritual being having a human experience thingy…an inside job.
SP Out! Or back in I should say! Hehe
An interesting concept, Scott, with some weight to it. I think we’ve all been guilty of blame-shifting. Often, there’s a lot on the line– especially when it comes to dropping the ball or making a mistake!
Our experiences influence these judgments, too, I think. Personally, I have served and suffered under a power-hungry boss whose deluded thinking led him to believe he was a leader. As Dan has pointed out before, so many bobbing heads and blank expressions (sometimes even my own) cemented his inflated opinion of himself.
I did not enjoy earning these experiences, but I am glad to have them.
I appreciate your insights that most the leaders holding authority expect praise and flattery. Unfortunately, it is bitter truth. There are many reason why they do so. One strong reason is the cultural trend. I have seen, management do all those activities that previous management have done to reach at the top. And when they reach at the top, they expect the same from others. One senior manager harassed so many lower employees and he was famous for harassing the employees. And interestingly, he was known as strong, powerful and knowledgeable person in the system. He superseded many officers to reach at the top. I happened because of deep rooted trend in the system. In such system, when leaders try to make change, he or she get lot of resistance and obstacle. But those who do not care about resistance and have powerful character surge ahead to do change. We need management with strong character and will power who should concern about organizations, not about their position.
I agree that leaders should create environment, where employees can speak their mind. Employees should feel happy to speak what they think, not what other think. They should not be afraid of consequences of speaking truth.
Right on, Ajay. You indicate that the genie rubbing we see in organizations is a self-propagating system. Sad but true
Competent leaders have no problem acknowledging mistakes and failures. They are always willing to take responsibility and they welcome suggestions and feedback from followers. I wish I can work for a leader like that…or maybe I can be that leader 🙂 …love that idea! Great post, Dan.
I love that feeling of aspiration that rises above blame. It’s like aspiring to be the boss you wish your boss would be. Thanks Tagrid and best wishes on the journey.
Are you sure? I mean truth hurts and no one wants to hear that nowadays! Can’t we just rub the genie anyway? (if you can’t tell, this is covered and coated with sarcasm). Great Post Dan. It is hard to be truly objectionable when only yes men are present.
You are so wonderful and your comment is the most profound comment I have ever read! 🙂
Thanks for adding the problem of a culture of yes men. When everyone else is smiling and nodding it takes unusual courage to say no. Most just go along.
Well broken record sounding once again.
Law of Attractiion applies to human beings!
If you know so, you are right, if you don’t same effect, silly wabbits!
I CANNOT(just for me just like my opinion man, The Dude), transmit to others what I do not have myself. You can’t either whether you figured it out yet or not!!!!! Not really for me to say that about others but what the heck, shoot me for speaking truth! hehe
What am I giving myself? Harsh authoritative crap? Stern judgement? Or loving understanding, patience and acceptance?
What you giving you?
Can’t give someone an apple if I have an orange in my hand. DUH!
So creating a harmonious, loving, supportive, creative, openminded, ENVIRONMENT in my OWN HEAD is paramount to getting along with God’s other kids.
You know the 12 Steps to Freedom are an inside job, you did know that, right? And there are 12 of them and they are in order…….for a reason!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It really is like trying to go through a door on the left side ALL DAY LONG. The door knob is on the other side!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Try that side! Much easier. Like Starting with Why!
Getting my own house in order, serving ME the way I would love other people to serve ME! Then good vibes coming from me, being generated from me with the way I am treating me and creating my life.
Funny thing I have found, the cooler I am with me, I mean I am really right with me and my Higher Power…….the cooler other people seem!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ain’t that something?
One problem, conscious separation from me and God. One solution, conscious connection with me and God. Chuck Chamberlin wrote that in his majestic book, “A New Pair of Glasses”. I highly recommend it of you are wanting a different way to see stuff! Or don’t, continue the futile pursuit of supposing you can WREST satisfaction and happiness out of this world only if you manage it well!
Good luck wit DAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now Dan you gave 12 suggestions!!!!!!! You do that on purpose? I bet you figured out really cool stuff comes in 12’s, huh?!!!!!!!!!!!! hehe
Take care, back to my ridiculously, harmonious, supportive loving,
connected realtionship in my own head and heart!!!!!!!!
Man the world looks awesome looking out from a place like this!
I highly recommend it!!!!!!!!!!!
I Concur, of course!!!!!!!!!!! LOL
SP Out to Flourish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You crack me up!
On the serious side. I absolutely love the idea of self-compassion. How we treat ourselves says a lot about how others treat us. Great add!
And you are a very good man Dan Rockwell!
Helping a lot of people with the work you do.Just awesome!
Humor is a good thingy, right???? Hope so, large part of the way I communicate with me and see others!!!! hehe
Have a great one my friend.
Hello Dan, thanks again.
Employees don’t speak up because the powerful are often one or more of the following which creates the impression, real or imagined, that speaking up will be seen as a disloyal act which is to be punished:
Emotional, overly and inappropriately
Ill prepared for their job
Poor job suitability
Unaware of their bad behaviors
Woefully unprepared for their job
Also, some employees are not moved to speak up. A fellow Associate told me when I asked him why he doesn’t offer his ideas at the Director-Associates meetings he replied, “When they care about what I think, they will ask me.” He was correct; they didn’t really care what we thought. I had thought that my fellow Associate was afraid to speak up but he wasn’t, he just needed to be asked and since he had a Master’s in engineering management he should have been asked. The Directors on the other hand thought that when we did not speak up we had nothing to offer. I know that because I asked a director what they thought of those of us who did speak up.
My Boss, a Director, was asked during our senior staff department meeting, “Why are we having senior staff meetings?” and he replied, “because we want to know what our employees are thinking.” The other Director replied, “That’s not the reason, the Associates have raised the issue of poor communications between the Directors and the employees.” I had lobbied my 14 fellow associates that we had to meet and figure out how to help the company avoid bankruptcy; we were all stockholders and I took my 1% ownership seriously. Our staff CPA had begged me to “get the Associates to do something to avoid bankruptcy.” I told him to tell the Directors and he replied. “I did but they are incapable of doing anything about it.”
Nine months into my Executive MBA program my boss heard that I was encouraging the Associates to do something and he was furious. After a three hour private meeting where he demonstrated his ignorance of good management practices we went to the first of six lectures by our management consultant who was hired to placate the bank that was about to shut us down, i.e., cancel our line of credit. The consultant would say to me, “Bob, you could finish this lecture,” which did not sit well with those on the Board. No one on the Board had a degree in management let alone an advanced degree in management.
In the spring of the second year of the Executive MBA program the EMBA class went to England for a week of international studies. When I returned, six weeks before graduation, I was laid off.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Anyway, one of the methods used to help the board of directors understand the employees was employee interviews by the consultant of all the top people and most other employees. During the debriefing the consultant said he did know how to present their findings so for two hours he read employee comments. It was clear there was a major communications problem. A common thread among the directors was that, “employees complain when times are good and complain more when times are bad, employees just complain.”
The funny thing is the bank manager went to my brother (a CPA and well-versed in such problems) to ask him how to manage such a dysfunctional board. After listening to the symptoms for 20 minutes he told the bank manager that the company was the XYZ company. The bank manager was shocked since she never mentioned the company name, town, industry nor even the number of employees. He told her his brother had worked there for 20 years and told him the same story. The board didn’t seem to listen to each other let alone their bank manager or their employees. At the first ever directors/associates meeting (which was held after I conducted the first ever associates only meeting) all of the directors said they had good communications with their associates–they were stunned to learn we did not agree with them, one-way communications is not adequate but it is preferred by many executives.
Several months after I left a Director asked the Associates, “why are you all so quiet during Director-Associate meetings?” A future company president said, “Where’s Gately?” Truth to power is often punished, not rewarded. My advice to employees who sense that things should be better is to look around and find on of the top 20% of businesses to work for and apply there.
Self appointed change agents are not appreciated by the powerful.
What can I say? Wow! Thanks for sharing your story.
Connect the why’s and see what happens!!!
Currently living through a similar situation. I had given a workforce management strategy presentation to the local councillors (I work in local government) and as a follow-up one of the councillors asked me about morale in the organisation. I answered (as I thought) moderately that there were some issues, and outlined some suggestions for addressing them, information which was available in the WMS in front of them.
Next thing you know I’m having a counselling session (which was not identified as such), and receiving a “counselling letter” for unprofessional behaviour. The GM alleged my stated opinions were “personal”. Hello???? I work in HR. It’s my JOB to know this stuff.
Is anyone hiring that wants to hear the truth (with a view to positive action).
By the way, do you think I was hung out to dry because the GM had a performance review after that meeting (which I was unaware of) and was questioned by councillors about it…
Wow Dan, it seems you have touched on a sensitive subject. It takes a lot of courage to move against the crowd. As a leader it is important to demonstrate the qualities you expect from others. If you are not willing to challenge your boss (respectfully and with tact, of course) you cannot expect for others to do the same to you. Whether you are the leader or not, take the lead if you are willing and capable. Thanks for the thoughts.
Great metaphor, Dan.
The truth telling genie will need more than gentle rubbling to appear!
To release the truth telling genie in an organizational culture…Leaders need to….
1. Model transparency and truth telling- acknowledge their own mistakes and shortcomings
2. Provide feedback non-judgmentally, with a view to helping the individual grow
3. Receive feedback openly and non-defensively
4. React supportively to others’ mistakes and problems- seek to help rather than blame or judge or react from anger
5. Involve employees meaningfully in decision-making- as co-creative partners.
When employees feel judged, ignored, not valued… the organization is at risk of them shutting down, and losing the benefit of their valuable input and perspectives.
They say “the truth will set you free”…
Your post challenges leaders to ensure the truth is set free!
I have found that soliciting honest feedback from subordinates can be difficult. Some are programmed not to give it. Then you must demonstrate over time that it is safe to do in order to overcome the reluctance.
Give up the politics! Admit your human. Acknowledge that you too make mistakes. Make it safe for the team to admit that they also makes mistakes. Honest communication! Everyone moves forward.
The talk that happens behind the Leaders back. If only you could be a fly on the wall…..Where is the genie because I think we need one for this to happen.
Good post Dan. Sometimes even when we try and have open and honest relationships it is hard to get open and honest feedback from employees. Forwhatever reason: fear of retaliation, shyness, passive-aggressiveness, not knowing how, or whater; it is often difficult to get good cronstructive feedback from ones th don’t want to generally give it. Many times, employees the status quo just as much as they may just want to complain or let everything be.
This is great stuff. Everyone on the team brings value. It’s their perspective, their creativity, they way they process information, their systems thinking, ability to organize, etc. If we, as leaders, don’t model openness and transparency to our team, empower them to question and push back, we do not allow team members to bring their true value to the organization and we will limit creativity, productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Thank You!
Whe you rub the Genie, as they say: be care What you ask for!
Great post this, and some good follow up comments.
You ask how leaders can create environments where they receive honest feedback about themselves and their performance.
One way I have used to good effect is to use very simple and specific 360 assessment questionnaires. Not the type that need obscure algorithms to get results that you then you have to interpret as best you can.
Questions more like:
“I have a system to follow up & confirm with my team, giving clear & appropriate feedback to ensure all are held accountable for their activities.”
“I follow standards at all times & demonstrate what I expect of others.”
I get the respondents (the leader’s team, peers, boss) to rate the leader in the range of 1 to 4, where 1 means you never do it, through to 4 where you consistently do it all the time. This in line with the principle of “Do an activity enough times, it becomes a habit. Follow a habit long enough, it becomes a behaviour”.
I give people the option of remaining anonymous – although in practice I have found VERY few will take this option, because they welcome the opportunity for 1-2-1 time with their boss.
This can be a bit raw for some leaders, but they always get clear feedback and therefore clear opportunities to improve the way they project themselves onto others.
So, the short answer to your question is – Ask for it 🙂
Excellent article. Unfortunately, many leaders do not respect honesty. How do you tell the truth without shooting yourself in the foot? My honesty is often seen as out of place or shocking.
The “game” is what frustrates me most about corporate America. Few people are saying what needs to be said.
Good baked leaders will appreciate transparency, and will admit their mistake and rectify it before the team. Its the transforming leaders who is in the verge of acquiring leadership qualities many times lack this… your posts will surely transform them into able leaders.
Yes this is an excellent article. I won’t work for a dishonest leader. I can’t see how so much dishonesty could possibly develop? Do you have ideas about how things go so far off the rails? Jo
Precisely the unspoken ingredient that leads to so much repetitive failure…not actively listening to constructive criticism…or even encouraging it to be spoken in the first place.
An excellent article …
Before one expects the subordinate to share his mind he needs to feel confident in you …so first earn their confidence then you can expect your subordinates to speak the truth to you…