A good leader communicates directly and truthfully without sugarcoating.
In today’s episode, co-hosts Roland Frasier and Ryan Deiss recount a recent leadership meeting of their central holding company, Scalable Equity. According to Ryan, the meeting was going “fine” until Roland “started yelling at this one guy out of nowhere.” Roland’s rendition of what happened is nothing like Ryan’s.
These differing perspectives caused Roland and Ryan to reevaluate things and ask some important questions like: How do you yell at people when they’re screwing up? How do you talk to people at an executive leadership level vs. your subordinates? Do we need to worry about people’s feelings? What’s the best way to deliver uncomfortable truths?
Listen in as they tackle a hard topic head-on.
Two Sides to the Same Story
Ryan gives his version of the leadership meeting first. Things were going fine. They were talking over their priorities. Then Roland started yelling about how they had goals that didn’t get met, projects that didn’t get finished on time. He was frustrated and let his feelings be known. Ryan said they were all frustrated, but he was still surprised that Roland came in with “guns blazing.”
Roland says Ryan’s characterization isn't accurate. He felt like the meeting was all BS. Everyone was being inauthentic and pretending to be this perfect image. He was surprised that people were faking fine.
From Roland’s point of view, it started with looking at one particular company’s financials. They received PPP money, and have a line of credit. The company had missed its goals by a fair amount, and the current month was tracking even worse. They’d made a lot of changes, but they were using PPP money that was supposed to be sacrosanct.
Roland says there had been rumors of people complaining about variable comp, and they needed to understand they were underperforming. A company called DigitalMarketer shouldn’t have a struggling marketing department. He loves them all, but they need to fix this, and the leadership team is responsible.
He says he wasn’t picking on one guy. He was talking to everyone. (He called this person after the meeting to clear things up.)
Sugarcoating vs. Being Real
Roland and Ryan discuss the whole “praise in public, reprimand in private” concept. They agree that yes, you need to be careful not to damage someone reputationally by coming down on them hard in front of others. But, in a leadership meeting, you need to be able to talk directly. It’s tempting to sugarcoat, but the longer you go without saying what you need to say, the harder it gets.
If you’re going to talk to a person about their performance (or lack of), that should be done in private. But when you’re talking about the company and saying, “Here’s where we’re falling down and here’s where we stand as a consequence of that, and that can’t continue and we all need to pull together and figure out how we’re going to help correct that,” you’ve got to be able to have that conversation with your leadership team. They don’t need to be beat up on or singled out, but they need to hear the truth and where the collective leadership is failing.
Roland said he didn’t make an emotional outburst; he delivered the facts intentionally in the way he thought would convey the biggest impact. He thought about the words he was using and chose to say “marketing” instead of a person’s name.
Ryan said he wished he would have known ahead of time that Roland was going to bring it up, so he could have been prepared. But he realizes that a leadership meeting is literally for discussing problems. If they’re not going to meet for real talk, then why are they even meeting?
He says a leadership team can’t be effective unless they can piss each other off and still move on from that. If you’re hyper-obsessed with not hurting people’s feelings, how will you ever get good work done?
From This Point Forward
In the past, Roland would have said, “Screw those people if they don’t get it. I don’t care if their feelings are hurt.” But Ryan and Richard have taught him a lot about being focused on culture. He now sees the importance of hearing people and apologizing and constructive criticism.
From now on, Roland is going to talk to Richard and Ryan ahead of the meeting, then bring up negative things by saying, “I’ve talked to Richard and Ryan, and we’ve agreed this needs to be addressed.”
The company will go so much further so much faster and the praise will mean so much more when everyone is willing to be constructively critical of themselves. They need to know they’re all there to improve the company and each other. Be honest when things are great, and be honest when things aren’t going so well.
Let’s tie a bow on this, be done with it, and get back to making money.