Here’s a personal story that still applies to leadership today…
Early in my career, when I was recruited to work at Procter & Gamble, the VP of my division at that time – AG Lafley – was personally interested in making sure I joined the company. He and I had both attended Harvard Business School, and he told me, “I want to make sure you are successful here.”
One evening, a few weeks after I joined P&G, AG came down into my “bullpen,” as it was called back then. Everyone else had gone home, but I was still hard at work.
AG grabbed a chair and sat down. After checking in with me to see how I was doing and learning about the projects I was focused on, AG shifted his questions to a different nature. “Brenda, I’m curious: What is really going on in the division? What’s the buzz – what are employees talking about? What are people saying about company leadership, as a whole?” I shared my thoughts with him, and AG thanked me (and then encouraged me to go home – ha ha…).
A few weeks went by, and AG came back again, repeating the same conversation. As months continued to pass, this same pattern happened again and again.
One such evening, as AG and I were nearing the end of our conversation, I said, “AG, do you mind if I ask you a question? I’m curious … you keep asking me about what is going on in the division. What is that about?”
His response was something I will never forget.
“Brenda,” he said, “when I recruited you, I knew you would be a straightshooter. I knew you wouldn’t embellish, that you would be honest. What I’ve found is this: the higher you get in an organization, the more the information you receive tends to be filtered. That means I may not always hear the truth or get honest answers to my questions. But I know that you will share the truth with me.”
Fast forward to today and AG’s words still have an impact. As an Executive Leadership Coach regularly working with senior leaders of major corporations globally, I ask my clients: “To what extent are you really hearing the truth? Are you getting the unfiltered answers you need to help you build the brand of leader you want?”
AG was both a wonderful person and a wonderful leader, and he eventually became the Chairman and CEO of P&G, the $80Bn+ consumer goods giant. I admire how astute AG was to recognize that it is a career crusher to be unaware of how others perceive, think, and feel about you as a leader.
When was the last time you got the gift of honest, unfiltered feedback regarding how people perceive, think, and feel about YOU™? What has been the impact of that feedback on your career?