Unfiltered Truth In 2013

Luring quality information up from the front lines.

InspectionEvery leader wants to hear the untainted truth of what his or her folks are thinking before making big decisions. Getting that truth, however, doesn’t come naturally.

“Sunflower Management” is a relatively recent term given to a thinking error triggered simply by knowing the boss’s opinion. Whether it is “Yes-Man” syndrome driven by career ambition or genuine admiration for the CEO’s instincts, people migrate toward their leader’s opinion and preference.

The Deeper You Go, The Worse It Gets
Sunflower Management devastates the quality of information… particularly the insights from further down in the organization as each layer is influenced by the layer above it.

No wonder CEOs regularly report a feeling of isolation from what’s really going on at the front lines!

“A Rose By Any Other Name” provides counter-measures to combat Sunflower Management from direct reports. One key practice is “The Boss Talks Last.” This practice forces your direct reports to reveal their true thoughts before hearing your impressions.

But to hear genuine perspectives of those deeper in your organization, you must strongly encourage every level of management to apply this practice. Otherwise, you hear only your direct report’s opinions parroted by their people.

This also demands that those folks in the lowest ranks reveal their perspectives first. Only then does the next level up outline their thoughts, and so on up the ranks.

Dealing With Resistance
Realize that effective application of these principles is hard-won. Every layer of management gets nervous about what their subordinates might say in front of the next level up.

Contradictory opinions might be perceived as confusion in their division. Worse, some dirty laundry might be exposed. (And to be fair, just how comfortable are you when anyone from further down in your organization is speaking to your boss or board?)

You’ll have to be proactive to overcome your subordinates’ fears. That means positive and public recognition when you see them wince at something their underlings says. Offer genuine congratulations in front of their peers for cultivating an open and diverse climate in their organization!

Unadulterated news from the front lines is a precious commodity. And as is typical in leadership, the boss sets the standard and gets only what they deserve.

© 2013 Verax Point

About Dave Wittenberg

I am all about equipping business teams to enjoy greater payoffs on their biggest bets. I bring a unique combination of evaluation expertise and behavioral insights developed over the course of more than 300 major strategic initiatives. Applying a highly effective, disciplined framework, teams unleash their full capabilities to generate better solutions, wring out hidden waste, and deliver superior returns. Specialties: Investment Evaluation, Decision Excellence, Strategic Analysis, Mergers and Acquisitions, Investor Relations, Leadership Development, Education & Training
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