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What Does Open And Candid Look Like?

by The Authors on May 16th, 2012

We all know that organizational hierarchies generate tension between those on top and those at lower levels. However, we also know (based on ample empirical data) that many organizations and their leaders fail to effectively deal with this tension and keep it from turning into resentment and opposition. Addressing the issue of hierarchical tension requires a serious commitment to open and candid communication on a regular basis. Consider the following story.

A successful leader, who we had worked with, was being actively recruited for a position on the senior executive team of a major corporation. As part of interviewing process, she had the opportunity to speak with each member of the senior team. To her surprise, each of the CEO’s direct reports had anxiously counseled her on “what” and “what not” to say to the CEO. Needless to say, she was very concerned about what she’d heard and experienced. She did not want to be part of a senior team that focused more on posturing and politics than on achieving real results, but she also really wanted the job. When she finally sat down with the CEO, she chose to be completely open and candid, “I have been coached and counseled on ‘what’ and ‘what not’ to say in this interview by every member of your team.” After pausing a moment, she continued, “Is that what you want and expect from the members of your senior team? Because if it is, I’m not sure I want the job.” The CEO looked at her long and hard before he responded, “No, it’s not how I want this team or this organization to operate…let’s talk about how you can help me change it.”

She did take the job and together they did change the culture by creating a genuinely open and candid environment where concerns were easily discussed, opinions were always respected, ideas were vigorously debated, and judgments were never passed prematurely or inappropriately. To learn more about how to create a truly open and candid work environment, join our Accountability Community at, where you can review the accounts of actual leaders and organizations.

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