Disclaimer: The article below is not an invitation to vent or unload your frustrations at your leadership team. The article below is a conversation about having the courage to provide difficult but necessary feedback to your leaders if there are opportunities for your organization to improve. Don’t take the conversation below as a license to simply say whatever comes to mind whenever you feel like it. Feedback is healthy when it is constructive and benefits everyone involved.
One of the hallmarks of a successful influencer is having the courage to say what needs to said to the people who need to hear it.
“I can’t believe you just said that to him!”
I have heard this phrase many times in my career and not always for the best reasons. If you hear this yourself, you may be contributing to the success of your team by bringing forth a difficult subject, or you may have said something you shouldn't have. How do you tell the difference?
If you want to be courageous and speak up when you feel you should, ask yourself a few simple questions before you proceed.
First off, ask yourself why a leader might need to hear the feedback. Who will the feedback help and who will it hurt? In my opinion, you shouldn’t “give someone a piece of your mind.” This is usually from a place of anger or frustration. Sometimes expressing frustration is warranted because it is a sign of underlying structural problems that a leader needs to know about. By asking yourself how this feedback will help move the organization forward, you are at least putting yourself in the right frame of mind to understand of your feedback will be helpful.
Second, ask yourself if you are nervous. Why would a leader not want to hear what you have to say? Is it because you think they will have a bad reaction? Maybe it is personal feedback. Personal feedback can be tough sometimes, and typically is not appropriate for a group setting. Just remember to phrase feedback through the lens of how things affect you and your personal experience.
Do you think that even if you say it, nothing will get resolved so it’s not worth putting yourself out there? Not a good reason to withhold feedback. If you don’t speak up, it’s likely your leader doesn’t know something is a problem. Don’t assume they know everything. They don’t.
Finally, game it out. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen? If your feedback is supportive and aiming towards improving the organization, the worst case scenario shouldn't be anything you can't handle.