Decisions, decisions, decisions. As part of the C-suite or upper management, your effectiveness hinges on your ability to make decisive, quality decisions. The problem is that as honest as you may have asked your team to be when giving feedback, there will always be a level of hesitance for people in your employ to speak freely.
The last thing you want when running a business is to sit in an echo chamber. You need to have honest and frank feedback when a decision that you’ve made or are making may not be correct. As history has shown countless times, everyone nodding in agreement will lead you right off the edge of a cliff.
This brings us to the idea of the court jester, and as a parallel, the Shakespearean fool.
Jesters and fools were entertainers, but more importantly they were truth tellers. Kings and queens relied on them to lighten the mood during their most difficult hours, but also to see things from a clear perspective.
“In a word, he told the queen more of her faults than most of her chaplains, and cured her melancholy better than all of her physicians.”
In the modern business world, your jesters should include the people on your board, your investors, and your advisors. If you don’t have advisors or a board, find a mentor and bounce any decisions you’re not completely certain on off of them. It can literally save your business.
There is also a lot of feedback that can only come from inside your organization. You need honest feedback from people in the trenches that see how your decisions are affecting every day performance, company culture, and morale. Your mission should be to empower people in your organization to always tell you the truth, especially the hard truths about the impacts of your decisions. When people see something wrong, they need to feel like they can stand up and speak freely to you about it before it becomes a major problem.
Not everyone will be able to handle the responsibility, but the ones who can will give you insight into problems that are developing. They’ll grant you the lead time you need to effectively deal with situations before they become major fires.
Most importantly, put your ego aside and don’t kill the jester. They’re doing you a favor.