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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:

  1. Stop pretending people tell you the truth about you. Seek and earn the right to hear the truth.
  2. 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.
  3. Be transparent.
  4. Reward transparency.
  5. Own your failures and publicly make them right.
  6. 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.
  7. Expect it, call for it, and explain why it’s important.
  8. Explore uncomfortable feedback. Don’t correct or defend.
  9. Talk less.
  10. Develop candor by exposing as much information as possible. Holding back information is manipulation.
  11. Address tough issues kindly. When you blow up, they shut up.
  12. 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?

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