Today we’re re-sharing this important article by David Lesser, CEO of Numina.


Workplace hostility is in the news again. Enlightened bosses want to understand what people are experiencing and often ask us to interview key members of their teams. Almost always, there is something withheld. Members of the team will tell us things about which they are not speaking up candidly in meetings or one-on-one reviews. Here are two ways you can make it safe for your people to tell you what is really going on.

Reward Blunt Candor
Given how much company culture contributes to attracting and retaining talent, and to successful financial outcomes, it is surprising how many bonus programs still focus on business results and fail to reward behaviors that empower the whole team. Communication is often highlighted as a quality leaders most want to encourage, especially straight talk. The boss needs his or her people to speak up about the things that are hard to hear.

Unless there is some material acknowledgement of the behaviors you want to see, all the lip service in the world won’t move the cultural needle. How do we measure candor? The most potent method is to delegate the scoring to your people’s direct reports. For each person reporting to you, collect five or six “candor” scores from those he or she works with most closely. Do this each year. If your key executives are being candid with you, the people they work with will know. They will see their boss thinking about how to report hard truths to you. They will see you acting on things that they found painful.

Channel Of Personal Connection
Even in today’s most progressive companies, there is one communication mechanism that is almost completely overlooked. That is direct personal connection with the CEO.

We have clients who have instituted regular correspondence with everyone on their teams. One leader I know sends a personal letter each month, adding a handwritten note each quarter to all 200 of his employees. I have seen a leader encompass a monthly correspondence with as much as 2,000 team members. That takes help. One who receives well-written notes from 400 people says that it takes less time than you might expect. And the benefit of being attuned to people in this way are invaluable.

The key to opening such a channel of personal connection is not so much what you say to the people. It is what they say to you. When you find a way to make it safe and make it fun for people to share what it is like to work for you, great leadership moves just naturally emerge. You look like a genius, when in fact the most brilliant solutions were just sitting there all along.

We would love to hear your experience of rewarding straight talk in a corporate culture and creating channels of personal connection that enhance the team’s intelligence and deepen their sense of belonging.

David Lesser
Founder & CEO of Numina

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