Giving the leader above you some candid feedback or criticism can prove to be a dicey proposition. In too many cases, powerful leaders respond defensively to feedback and view it as insubordinate from someone who reports to them. To avoid negatively impacting the relationship, most underlings refrain from offering feedback or any sort of criticism to their leader. This seems like the safe play. Unfortunately, the consequence of holding back means repeatedly enduring the same ineffective behaviors, messages, or choices.
It seems this also works top down too. I had a commander in the military when I was a Captain that trained us to think through problems and come up with a couple of possible solutions before we brought the issue to his attention. He did that by first asking some variation on "How would you solve this?" after the problem is presented. At the time he was a Major (Lt. Col. select) and eventually retired as a General (my most memorable leader in the military). I know that's a different behavior which seems connected to this one with the only difference being which direction the question is directed (you up the chain; or you down).
This is a real spicy one!
Listen to the discussion that unpacks this Field Notes entry from today:
I love this great strategy since we likely only see a few trees and they are trying to make the best decisions for the whole forest. I think we do have to be careful that our questions aren't passive-aggressive or sarcastic.