Picking Scabs and Popping Zits

Mom told me not to pick at scabs and pop zits. “You’ll get scars.” The opposite is true in organizations. The things you don’t say, but should, cause scars.


7 things you want to say, but don’t:

  1. You’re negative.
  2. You talk too much. We don’t need another rendition of War and Peace.
  3. The meetings you run suck.
  4. Your stories about the good ole days are boring.
  5. Five minutes late is on time for you.
  6. The first thing you do is defend yourself.
  7. You don’t follow through.

The dance:

The importance of picking scabs rose to the surface in a recent coaching development session in Philadelphia. The organization I work with feels like a family. For better or worse, sometimes families don’t bring up dad’s habit of burping at the table until he does it in front of guests.

Frustrations ends with, “And you’re just like your mother.”

The leaders in the room laughed about ‘the dance’. We talk around nagging issues, performance concerns, and irritating habits. (They were being candid.)

Why pick scabs and pop zits:

Pointing out a colleagues self-defeating behaviors, blind spots, or inconsistencies – with compassion and curiosity – is like airing out a stuffy attic.

One manager in the meeting reflected. “Now that it’s out in the open, we can deal with it.”

3 necessities:

My friend Alf Goodall, VP Sales, Wealth Management at London Life, conferenced into our coaching development meeting. Alf said a culture of candor requires:

  1. “A strong belief in people.” Candor is cruelty if you don’t believe in the person receiving it.
  2. “It has to be delivered in a nonthreatening way.”
  3. “Organizations must be open with performance.” Candor requires a free flow of information. Secrets turn candor into manipulation.

“Candor is a compliment; it implies equality. It’s how true friends talk.” Peggy Noonan

How might leaders pick scabs and pop zits in ways that make things better?