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The Power of Candor

The Power of Persistence & Preparation

By November 15, 2022No Comments

Okay, so welcome to another one of my Todd Talks, which always exists to provide you with ideas that you can use immediately to improve your leadership, make a greater difference in the world, and help other people do the same.

So, as many of you know, I’ve spent most of my career trying to inspire people to lean into conflict, and equipping them to master the most important conversations of their lives. And I initially got into all of this because having such conversations was something that I really wasn’t good at. And of course, I’ve got to blame my parents for all of this. And that’s because from a very young age, my parents really impressed two things on me. One was the importance of telling the truth, and especially not lying. And two, with the optimistic belief that people and things could always be better and that I could and should try to make them so.

So if I saw something that I didn’t think was right, that I disagreed with, or that I felt could be better, I felt morally compelled to say something. But my truths weren’t always met with gratitude. And unfortunately, more often than not, the things I had to say upset people, which I found extremely stressful because I hate and still do, conflict.

So nearly 30 years ago, I went on a quest, first to solve this dilemma for myself, and then for other people, because it turns out a lot of people really struggle with this problem. And since then, I’ve learned a ton about what it takes to do this well, and the traps to avoid, both from my personal successes and failures, and from the tens of thousands of leaders I’ve personally developed.

So today I’m going to share the story of one of these leaders, Kevin, a middle manager at a renowned institution in the Washington DC metro area, because I think it holds a couple of important leadership lessons for all of us. And here’s what Kevin had to say in his own words.

“I went into unlocking the power of candor, skeptical.” A lot of people feel exactly that way. “But walked out with a game plan and how I could use candor more in my everyday management. I was excited that we were given practical ways we could be more open and honest, and I was reassured by the examples that showed when done correctly, being candid didn’t carry all the negative consequences I had feared. I put these learnings to work immediately after the program in my efforts to get raises for two of my team members. They’d both been with the organization for years and I’d previously been told that they were maxed out on their salary levels.”

So apparently Kevin had tried with no success to get raises for these two people on his team.

“However, I felt they deserved more as their roles included many extra responsibilities that previously salaried reviews hadn’t considered. Before the workshop, I had soft-balled my approach and was brushed aside with the issue being tabled for later. However, with my new focus on being candid and direct, I went to our interim CFO to get her thoughts on whether or not I should push it with HR. But using what I learned at the program and in the name of being open and honest, I laid out the complete case with her, with details I never would’ve included before, to paint a crystal clear picture of what these two people brought to our organization and how important it was them to feel valued by our organization.

“I asked for her feedback to make sure I was seeing the situation clearly, and she assured me there was room for them to earn more, encouraging me to bring it to HR.

“So I polished up my business case and brought it to our CHRO, asking for the highest amount I felt was justified, assuming he’d just negotiate me down. However, he actually approved the raises that I had proposed. And this was a huge win for our organization and these team members because they were finally getting what they deserved. And it helped us retain two very valuable employees who had decades of institutional knowledge that we couldn’t afford to lose.”

Wow, that’s awesome. I’m really proud of Kevin, and I loved what he did here for all sorts of reasons. But two of the ones that stand out the most for me are around the importance of both persistence and preparation. He persisted despite his prior failures and despite his pessimism about the possibility of a positive outcome. He fought for his people until he achieved a just outcome. But he also prepared for the conversation by doing his research and crafting a business case supported by solid logic and sound data. And then he pressure-tested his thinking by asking someone else to poke holes in it.

And by doing all these things, he didn’t just leave the outcome of these conversations and these people’s lives up to chance. He didn’t just hope for the best. He did everything that he possibly could to maximize the possibility of a good outcome for these folks and for the organization.

Bottom line, I think this story is a great reminder for all of us, on the power of persistence and preparation with having these two powerful allies on our side. Perhaps we’re more capable of doing good in the world and for other people than we ever possibly imagined.

All right, that’s it for me today. Thanks for listening, and I hope you found this valuable, and I look forward to seeing you next time. But in the meantime, be curious, be compassionate, be collaborative. But most of all, be candid.

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