Don't Be a JerkListen Up

“Why do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot? If you would only ask us before you make decisions affecting our team, we could then save ourselves a lot of rework, mistakes, conflicts, and money.”

—Anonymous feedback to upper management

In the reality television show Undercover Boss, CEOs disguised themselves as new hires and went into the front lines of their organizations to find out what was really going on in their company. There were inspiring stories revealed in some episodes—passionate employees, incredible performance going above and beyond the job requirements, stories of compassion and teamwork. Yet, in many of the episodes, the CEO was shocked to discover that some well-meaning corporate programs were actually punishing people for doing their job. Why were many of the CEOs featured in the show astonished to find that their frontline, hard-working people's needs are not being met? Why were corporate decisions being made without anyone representing the people who were in constant contact with their customers?

Of course, the answer is because the truth was not being communicated from the front line to the executives making the decisions, or the leaders in that organization were not listening. Some of the most painful words a leader can hear from someone on his team are, “I could have told you that wouldn't work.”

An extensive study by the Center for Creative Leadership revealed that the two principal behaviors that derail executives are an ...

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