The subject of candour

Give your feedback in the belly, not the back.

So what is candour? It’s a level of frankness, being open and sincere.

As an adult it takes a lot of courage to embody. For children it is just a way of being. How many times have you been caught out by the candour of children? As adults we become more polite and begin to hide our true opinions to protect the feelings of others.

Jack Welch former CEO of General Electric says one of his greatest achievements has been developing a culture of candour amongst his team. Staff are able to give each other direct feedback and critiques with the trust that their discussions will develop a better company.

Similarly the All Blacks have an internal motto “In the belly not the back”, have the courage and respect for your team mates to deliver frank feed back to their face and not behind their back.

So, (despite what my mother says) being polite has it’s draw-backs. If we tiptoe around feelings and stay too polite the blind fold is never lifted and nothing will improve.

Being too polite can even be dangerous:
In the UK during a public enquiry it was identified that the NHS culture within the Mid Staffordshire Hospital accommodated extreme medical negligence. The staff were under performing and their colleagues were too polite to speak up or provide any negative feedback. This negligence included nurses using equipment they didn’t know how to use and doctors performing surgeries that they were not qualified for. This resulted in an estimated 1200 extra mortalities over four years.

Or the case of Korean Air. In 1999, Korean Air was put under FAA sanction after a series of fatal accidents which saw a total over haul of the Korean air system and pilot training. Review of the black box audio of a particular crash in 1997 uncovers instances of the co-pilot’s understanding of the precarious position they were in, but being too polite to confront his senior.

These examples simply highlight the responsibility of everyone to be open to give and receive frank feedback. In order to evolve and improve we must seek criticism not praise and through this we can become better for our clients, ourselves and each other.

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