News Flash: My wife recently called me fat. Well, not exactly fat. After work one recent afternoon, I changed into a form-fitted athletic shirt and a pair of shorts prior to going for a run. My wife was leaving the house, and I needed to ask her a question. I caught her as she was backing down the driveway. She stopped and rolled down the window.
When the real purpose of our exchange was completed, she volunteered an additional, unsolicited observation. ”Wow,” she said, “I haven’t seen that little jelly roll on you in some time.” She smiled and drove away.
At first I was indignant. No, I was offended. Then I looked down and confirmed that my well-known, half-hearted muffin top had indeed reared its ugly pudge once once again. Damn. After a year of a flat stomach, someone had obviously managed to slap a baby roll of belly fat on me when I wasn’t looking. I hadn’t noticed. She was correct.
Love and Respect
The exchange and my reaction to it got me thinking about why my wife can deliver such a personal and candid observation when very few other people would have the courage or the leeway to do the same. The answer is simple: because I know that she loves me, and always has my best interest in mind. I am open to her feedback, even when it is critical, and even when I don’t like what I hear.
Candor with Respect
My organization’s leaders have been working to improve what we call candor with respect. I work with a group of great people, and we know that we need to get even better. We need to become more open, honest, and direct in our interactions with each other because that is now required of healthcare leaders in this time of industry tumult and uncertainty. We no longer have the luxury of time for organizational politics. The healthcare reform train is headed down the tracks, and it is going to cause all kinds of collateral damage to the healthcare system the we currently know – that is not necessarily a bad thing.
I find it far more challenging to be so open to honest criticism in the workplace. Ego, positional authority, credibility, and personal insecurities prompt us to create barriers against anything that might be harmful. We don’t always assume that our colleagues have our best interest in mind, and when we do actually get candid feedback of a critical nature, we often assume that the bearer of candid criticism has bad intentions. Because we question their purpose for pointing out our shortcomings, we sometimes assume that it comes from a lack of respect.
But, when such feedback is authentic and sincere, and we are able to set our egos aside, it is not that difficult to see that such candor actually comes from a profound sense of respect.
How do we know the difference? I think it comes down to relationships.
Now, I’m off to change my shirt and do some crunches. What do you think about candor and respect in the workplace?