Several years ago I was in a company where I had just been promoted to a director level position. I had worked for the company for a several years and I was known as a hard worker and a forward thinker. At the time the company was in culture shift. We had several new senior leaders that had come in from other companies, as well as people internally who had been promoted who thought differently. These two groups of new leaders were there to help transform the company. At that time is was needed desperately. Results had become stagnant and the culture was a mess to say the least.
My current supervisor at that time became a good friend of mine, and even during this growth phase we worked closely together and we learned a lot along the way.
Both mine, and my supervisors boss, who was a vice president and reported to the owners of the company, was a friend as well. Several times a year the vice president had meetings with all of the directors within the organization. We would all meet and go over the objectives and different strategies we were using in our divisions to get better results. You could say it was like a brainstorm session a lot of times.
Since, I am a new director and I am now attending these meetings, I made it a point to make sure my voice was heard. Again, at this time, it was in my DNA to be this way. I was aggressive, I was opinionated (meaning I had some suggestions), and I wanted to be the first to state my opinions. Again, this is what landed me in those meetings in the first place in my mind.
I am not quite sure how many meetings I participated in before this meeting with my boss occurred, but I can remember this meeting with my boss.
My boss sat me down and gave me some feedback. It is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have received when it comes to navigating and managing political issues within the workplace. Which up until that time I never even considered.
He said that some of my peers, as well as some of the other people in the organization feel like I am a “bulldozer”. Which means I am very aggressive in how I talk with my colleagues and how in meetings I want to be first to say what is on my mind, and that I don’t listen to others very well.
At the time, this feedback hit me really hard. Again, this is who I am in. This is what I do. I am aggressive, I want to get business done as quickly as possible. I don’t want to over think anything. But this feedback he gave me was coming from several sources, even the owners of our company’s daughter who worked in the business as well.
After I got over the initial shock of this feedback, and I stated my thoughts on the situation. Which means, I said they are just mad they are not like me. They are passive, they don’t have good suggestions, and why aren’t they aggressive about what it is they think and want to do instead of criticizing me for what I do.
Once I got that off my chest. The two of us talked and he provided me some suggestions on what it was I could do to help manage these perceptions. I ultimately did what he said, and I was promoted to the highest level in the company in my position, which means I was promoted over all of those people who had those opinions.
The reason I was able to win in the end, was because my boss at that time. My mentor, provided me the feedback and the truth that I needed. Sure, what I was doing was good for business, but we have to think about the people involved in the business as well…the people we have to work with on a daily basis.
If it wasn’t for that feedback at that time, I know for a fact I would have never been promoted, because I would had never changed. So all of those people probably would have complained so much that my boss and his boss would had eventually fired me (maybe), but I know for sure I could have never been promoted to the level I was, because all of those people would have had a mutiny.
My boss at the time knew that the feedback he was giving me was going to be hard for me to swallow at first. Because he knew the things everyone was complaining about is why he had promoted me in the first place. But he also knew that if I didn’t fix those things I would never last in that position. He cared enough about me and my career to tell me the hard things that would help me grow and develop. And it did.
In todays culture, we need more of this direct truth and feedback in business as well as in our society as whole. Unfortunately, even when the people do get it, they respond like I did, and in many cases they don’t grow from it. I whined and cried and blamed at first, but then I used it as the opportunity to grow and learn from it.
Also, I didn’t blame the messenger, ever. It wasn’t his fault that people felt the way they did. He didn’t create this issue. But he was being a great leader and fixing it. Because that is what leaders do. They say the hard stuff, the stuff nobody wants to hear. They do the things that have been neglected in doing for years and years.
So when this “real” leader shows up, the long history of avoidance and outright negligence, on major issues are finally being dealt with, people are even more entrenched and worried about how and what they are doing, versus the fact that they are finally doing something about it.
In my case, I ended up taking the truth and turning it into an advantage for me, and I ultimately won. In today’s society, we need to hear the truth, no matter how hard and direct it is, so we can take it, learn from it, and improve things from it. The truth will set your free, if you listen to it.
The alternative to the truth is someone who never tells you anything and you end up some place you never wanted to be. In my case it could have been losing my job, which wouldn’t have ended my life, but it would have sucked at that time.
If we don’t get the truth on some of the major issues affecting our society has a whole, there could be some big implications from this in our future. I am thankful that we have truth tellers in politics now, versus, liars, who either think you are too dumb to know everything and they never tell you, or instead just do things that they believe is best for your future.
Don’t kill the messenger, instead, listen to them, and hopefully we can fix the problem.
To your success and your future.