Who Will Tell The Boss the Truth?


Being at the top is a lonely position. Even the most open leader cannot share all his thoughts and concerns with anyone. And subordinates of even the most beloved boss will not provide radical candor in feedback s(he) needs to be as better leader.

So, it is no surprise that one of my clients who founded a professional service firm, who has inspired his people toward pride and excellence, had little idea of how his best and worst traits were perceived. Until he commissioned an on – line 360.


For a 360 for most clients, I am given a list of direct reports, others in the organization and occasionally outsiders as respondents. A note is sent advising them what to expect, committing to a no—attribution guarantee, and encouraging their candor. I may or may not create a short, anonymous on-line survey of them (on surveygizmo or surveymonkey) before conducting in-person conversations with an interview guide. The in-person challenge is to gain the respondents’ trust, then ask enough open-ended and specific questions to get the views that might not otherwise be expressed.

Without exception, the CEO finds great value (and some pain) from this process and it becomes as focus of on-going coaching.


As I have previously blogged, Kim Scott’s new book, Radical Candor, provides a framework and almost field manual for learning about candor. Her definition of Radical Candor is caring but direct feedback. As she said at her recent book party, she came to this view when she had engaged as boss in Ruinous Empathy, shying away from Radical Candor for so long with a key employee that she had to fire him for underperformance and was asked by him: “why didn’t anyone tell me?”

I cannot urge you enough to buy this seminal leadership/supervision book (which applies to personal life as well). Kim’s website is radicalcandor. com; the book is available on Amazon and other on-line booksellers. 

My belief? Modeling Radical Candor, then encouraging and teaching it will pay big dividends. 


In- person 360s will always have a place in the toolkit. But there is now a tool available that is unique because:

  • It is based on a terrific framework
  • There is a lot of normative data on profiles of leaders
  • There is ample normative data on the tendessncies of respondents in their feedback

The tool is the Leadership Circle Profile. You can read about the framework in the book by Anderson and Adams: Mastering Leadership, also available on line. 


I asked a fellow coach to administer the 360 for my client to ensure complete objectivity.

With the client’s permission, I now have the anonymous output and the benefit of my colleague’s interpretation. Results?

The boss was deeply surprised by two of the patterns in the feedback and committed to work on both to go from blissful ignorance to admired improvement. And one category appears to be a communication challenge, the other requires a change in beliefs and behaviors in leading the firm.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?








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What Made jack welch JACK WELCH

How Ordinary People Become
Extraordinary Leaders

by Stephen H. Baum (Random House)

Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

Countless more ordinary people of equal talent never developed the leadership core required to run the show. Why not?

"Lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking decisiveness and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
--Jim Clifton, CEO, The Gallup Organization


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