Is your team telling you what they think or what they think you want to hear?

I had a tough decision to make, and I sought the advice of a senior member of my team. He told me what he thought. As he was more knowledgeable in that space than I was (or ever will be TBH), I went with his advice.

It didn’t work out.

As we reviewed what happened, he said the sentence that kicked me in the guts.

“I told you that because that’s what I thought you wanted me to say.”

I was devastated. He’d gone against his (superior) instinct, to tell me what he thought I’d want to hear. I had to remind him that I valued him enormously because of *his* opinions, not his best guesses at mine.

It made me think hard. I’d always made a point of asking my team’s opinions. But was I somehow failing to make them feel like they could tell me what they thought? In today’s trendy parlance, was I failing to provide a safe space?

Brilliant yesterday to see Matthew Syed talk through his excellent new book, “Rebel Ideas”. His central thesis is about the strength of teams with cognitive diversity. A thesis I wholeheartedly agree with. But in one of his chapters, he discusses how authority may occasionally negate the benefits of this diversity if people feel they can’t speak up.

If you’ve taken the time to put together a great team, make sure they know they can be heard.

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