As leaders rise in organizations and become more senior, they regrettably receive information that is more filtered and less candid. It’s just a fact of upward feedback. People generally offer less honest feedback when engaging those leaders above them in a team or organization.
To preserve their reputations and goodwill with those they report to, team members naturally pull punches and learn to soft-pedal bad news. This puts leaders at a disadvantage when making sound decisions and acting quickly on facts and information. Finding those reports who are willing to tell them the truth, no matter what, is essential for success.
To identify who can be trusted, senior leaders often give people “secret tests” to confirm that they can be counted on to tell the truth even when it is uncomfortable to do so. One of those tests is to, on occasion, challenge facts and opinions more boldly and stridently. By pushing hard against what others advocate, leaders learn how malleable trustworthy people are.
The leader might aggressively challenge what others believe about a particular situation. When you seem incredulous about the facts and opinions being offered, you quickly learn who is willing to alter their views in the face of strong pushback.
Trustworthy team members stand their ground. They will maintain their perspective regardless of challenge. Less candid team members will bend like branches in the wind. Sometimes their views, like the branches, break altogether.
We most trust the leaders who possess the conviction to tell us what they think without waffling, and who will change their views only when new evidence presents itself. A leader’s pushback style is not evidence. Be sure to pass this secret test to remain a trusted partner on the team.