The Opportunity of the Executive

People Carrying a Lightbulb

The Managers began to talk. Openly. Honestly. 

It took many hours of conversation and confidence in the pledge to maintain confidentiality. And they were ready to offer insights about challenges and opportunities. 

They had excellent observations and suggestions. They balanced the positives with the opportunities. They were constructive. They were empathetic. They continued to speak with respect.

And they were not willing to share any of their observations, learnings, ideas, and suggestions with the Executive Team.

“Can’t you do it?” they asked, a hopeful and somewhat pleading look on their faces. 

“I think it would mean more coming from you, but I appreciate your hesitation. I’ll see what I can do.”

My hope was to start a conversation with the Executive Team that would lead to a safe space for the Managers to share their insights. 

I failed. 

I succeeded in having a conversation. And I quickly understood the Managers’ resistance to being honest.

Sharing a relatively “small” observation and suggestion, dipping my toe, if you will, caused the Executive Team’s barriers to go up. I tried to remain calm, see us as partners rather than adversaries, and stay off the defensive. 

Years ago, when my compassion and tenacity were larger than my boundaries, I would have kept trying.  Trying to figure out how to help them see what they were afraid to see.  At the expense of myself. Circle back, build trust, figure out “the right way” to communicate. 

This time, I gave up. 

The way so many employees give up. 

So much opportunity. And it feels locked away.  


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