Wednesday, August 17, 2011

6 Ways To Not Walk Naked Down The Street

Photo by Eric Pakurar
Leaders and managers often need to make difficult and important decisions. In order to make the best decisions possible, we need to have as much meaningful information as possible. Unfortunately, people in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth - often difficult truths about themselves.

The old Hans Christian Andersen story of the Emperor's New Clothes is based on this unfortunate tendency of leaders to no longer hear truth. In this tale, the Emperor ends up parading naked down the street after two tailors take advantage of him.

Here are six ways to ensure you have the truth you need (and don't end up walking naked down the street):

1. Ask for the Truth - Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn't know. Become a person known for caring what's really going on.

2. Say Thank You - When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank them for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.

3. Respond - If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if not every idea is actionable, acknowledging that the ideas were heard and considered increases the likelihood of hearing more in the future.

4. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger - If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they probably will never bring you another concern.

5. Find Your Truth-Tellers - There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.

6. Look In the Mirror - If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet at least one of 1-4 above is not happening. If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input.

It may take time, but if you begin asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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At August 19, 2011 at 2:46 PM , Blogger Justin said...

Good stuff David. It is also quite timely, given that our new semester starts this coming Monday.

At August 19, 2011 at 6:49 PM , Blogger David M. Dye said...


Thanks, Justin. Please pass along where it might be beneficial. Here's to a great semester beginning!


At September 30, 2011 at 9:23 PM , Anonymous Robert said...

Bracing yourself for brutal honesty is hard for most people, but highly beneficial to growth and understanding.

Good tips David.

At October 1, 2011 at 8:17 AM , Blogger David M. Dye said...


It can definitely be difficult - I imagine that's why we have this centuries-old cautionary tale. Hopefully as we build a healthy culture in our teams and organizations, the truth can be spoken without it having to be brutal.

Thanks for reading,


At October 4, 2011 at 11:17 AM , Anonymous Josh Grillo said...


Nice post... I'd like to add being a "good listener" to the list. As a leader myself, some times I forget the point to actually "listen" to who I'm talking to.

At October 4, 2011 at 8:31 PM , Blogger David M. Dye said...

@Josh Grillo

You're right - good listening is critical. It warrants its own list in a future post.

Thanks for reading,



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