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When Honesty = Lack of Maturity

Photo by  j. cliss

Photo by j. cliss

A long time ago, far, far away, I was sitting in my SVP’s office having a one on one.  I suppose his leadership coach told him that’s what he needed to do to connect with the up-and-coming leaders, or whatever they wanted to call those of us who were on the fast track.

My supposition was based on his body language – disinterested and distracted.  That also could have been that he was overbooked.  His administrative assistant had rescheduled our meeting four times, and this one seemed doomed to her constant interruption.

We talked in a vague sort of way about the opportunities for promotion and various career paths in between his admin calling or poking her head in for this and that.

For my part, I wasn’t all that interested in this conversation myself.  There was a part of me that was flattered to have this visibility, but what exactly was this man going to remember out of our conversation.  He was barely there…always something more important to do.

Now, I get a little irreverent when I’m bored.  And, I was not only bored, but SVP-or-not, I was getting a little tired of sitting directly in front of him at his request only to be the least important thing on his agenda.

So, I asked, “When you graduated from college and imagined what your career would look like, did you think that you’d be spending your day doing this?”

Ha!  Now that got his full attention.

He responded, “What do you mean?”

I said something along the lines of, “Look at your calendar.  You have back to back meetings, sometimes triple booked.  You can’t go five minutes without an interruption.  What is there to that needs to be discussed that much?  Look, from where I sit you all have all of these meetings.  We see you in the conference room.  But, at the end of the day, there’s no clear agenda, so the rest of us continue on doing what we’re doing… what we think is important.  Is this what you imagined?”

Silence.

And now, folks, here is what should have been my career-ending statement: “I wouldn’t want your job.  The meeting schedule alone would make me want to slit my wrists.”

What naive, not very political, Young Carolann didn’t understand at the time is there are ways to say things and ways to say things.

This could have been the beginning of a real honest dialog about leadership, about creating the kinds of opportunities that people would actually want (as opposed to the title and the power), about what value their leadership team was adding.  This could have been a study in how communications were perceived as they filtered through the organizations.  In my heart of hearts, I don’t think he envisioned his life as a string of meetings trying to endlessly get buy-in on every idea.  This conversation could have been anything.

It wasn’t.

On the email the SVP sent back to my manager was the phrase “Astounding lack of maturity.”

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

It was probably the only honest feedback he’d heard that week.

Today, it would be different.  One of the things I do and teach my clients to do is to give feedback in a way that the recipient can hear it and do something with it.

But it does beg the question – do subterfuge, couching your meaning, and doublespeak (my favorite being “i don’t disagree with you” because heaven forbid one goes out on a limb and actually agrees with someone else) equal leadership maturity?

What do you think?

Be Your Best You Today,

Carolann

p.s. – As leaders get busier, they have less opportunity or maybe miss opportunities to demonstrate great leadership skills.  Who do you want to be as a leader?  How do you want people to see you?  How do you think people see you?  Are you leaving the legacy that you want to leave.  If the answer to that last question is no, I invite you visit Improve Performance NOW! If not now, when?

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