Putting the cat on the table
I learned a new expression — ‘putting the cat on the table' — while running a leadership development program with a group of 25 executives from a global company in Finland in 2013. The ‘cat' appeared over dinner at the end of the third day of a five-day residential program. One of the Finnish executives sitting next to me commented on a critical insight that had come up for him during the day. This was the importance of having tough, or difficult, conversations to produce effective and high-performing teams. He explained that there is a popular Finnish saying that translates to ‘putting the cat on the table'. This expression means to speak frankly and honestly to others about difficult subjects. It is used when there is an issue that needs to be discussed but that may be uncomfortable to talk about. He said it was important to do this with all valued human relationships. As the discussion unfolded, and two others joined the conversation, it emerged that when ‘putting the cat on the table' it was important to be direct, honest, open and respectful. They also commented on the need to be courageous in standing up for one's beliefs even if this meant voicing unpopular views. They said it generated greater accountability and real teamwork.