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Candor, Criticism, Teamwork

| November 27, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s reading is “Candor, Criticism, Teamwork” by Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research-based consulting and training company.  He is also author of the book Who’s Got Your Back.  The essay first appeared in the HBR blog.

Ferrazzi begins by noting that while the desire to avoid conflict is understandable, it is one of the most debilitating factors in organizational life.  Absence of candor, Ferrazzi notes, contributes to longer cycle times, slower decision making, and unnecessary prolonged discussions.

Ferrazzi Greenlight research at more than 50 companies over the past three years has identified “observable candor” as the single behavior that best predicts high-performing teams.  Forthrightness should not just be encouraged but required.

The research also identified three techniques can help everyone interact more directly:

1.  Break large group meetings into smaller groups.  In large meetings the louder, more confident voices always dominate.  Even strong team members often have difficulty in taking a risk and speaking up.  One way to get the “different” voices heard is to divide the meeting into smaller groups to brainstorm the issue.  Small groups promote openness and higher risk taking and, thus, different voices will be heard when the small group discussions are reported out.

2.  Designate a “Yoda.”  Star Wars had the wise Jedi Master, Yoda;  today’s discussions will often benefit from advocates for candor.  In a meeting Yoda’s job is to notice and speak up when something is left unsaid.  The Yoda may also call out behavior that in unconstructive or disruptive.  The Yoda for a meeting can be a volunteer, a designee, or a rotating meeting assignment.

3.  Teach “caring criticism.”  Constructive feedback almost always hurts, even when its purpose is to improve performance or avoid mistakes.  However, delivered well it is essential for high performing organizations.  So, we all need to learn to deliver and receive constructive feedback in a way that enables each of us to see the feedback as a gift given and received.  This most often will happen if the “gift” is given in the form of dialogue rather than a declaration:  “I’m not sure I understand how you cane to that course of action.  Can you help me understand?” rather than “That’s wrong!”

Ferrazzi notes that true collaboration is impossible when people don’t trust one another or speak with candor.  Since you have to be able to ask questions or propose answers that may be wrong to work together effectively, it’s important to create a candid environment built upon respectful and honest relationships.


Won’t you give this a try this week?  .  .  .  .     jim


EXTRA  ::  “In every encounter with someone else, however long or short, we should make him feel we’re 100 percent there for him at that moment, with nothing else to do except be with him and do whatever needs doing for him.  Good maners, yes, but also heartfelt availability.  This is very difficult, since we have a strong sense of proprietary rights to our time and easily tend to get upset if we can’t organize it as we choose.  But this is the price of genuine love.”   –– Jacques Philippe