Three crafty ways to tell your bosses about their flaws

There are subtle ways to make leaders aware of their limits without risking their wrath

Eighty per cent of people think they are better-than-average leaders – and most don’t like to hear otherwise. Photograph: iStock

Eighty per cent of people think they are better-than-average leaders – and most don’t like to hear otherwise. Photograph: iStock

 

When leaders are aware of their limitations, they are less likely to make mistakes that put their teams, organisations and countries in danger. And yet leaders are not generally known for their self-awareness.

Eighty per cent of people think they are better-than-average leaders – and most don’t like to hear otherwise. Whether you manage or coach leaders, or are just trying to provide some feedback to your own boss, here are three simple points you may wish to consider in order to have this difficult (but necessary) conversation:

1. Tap into their personal motives: Nobody likes to be criticised – especially high-status individuals. However, if you can help leaders understand how they can achieve their personal goals, they will pay attention. The most effective way of doing this is by tapping into the leader’s motives and values.

2. Let the data do the talking: Leaders tend to care about results. A good way to help leaders understand that their self-views and behaviours matter is via 360-degree feedback and employee engagement. The use of 360s also enhances coaching and development interventions by closing the blind spots between leaders’ self-views and other people’s views of them.

When subordinates focus not just on the bright side but also on the dark side of personality, leaders will be able to understand what their toxic assets are.

3. Highlight the downside of self-confidence: A final point to consider is that leaders who are interested in science may be easily persuaded of the virtues of modesty, as well as the adverse consequences of hubris. In other words, there is vast empirical evidence to convince leaders that excessive self-confidence is more problematic than they think.

Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017

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