When I speak to teams and organizations, I like to show a picture of a woman with her hand over her mouth with a shocked look, and I say something to the effect, “She just discovered that she has been walking around all day with a big piece of lettuce between her teeth. How many of you by a raise of hands would have told her?” After almost all of the hands go up I say, “I believe several of you, but the rest of you are lying.” 😉
The question is why? Why wouldn’t you tell her? When I ask that question it usually takes a few minutes to arrive at the real answer. The audience will say things like, “I wouldn’t want to embarrass her and she might get upset at me.” I even had someone say “I didn’t like her!” Eventually I tell them the reason you wouldn’t tell her is because you don’t care.
Maybe it was due to a lack of courage, or the thought of embarrassing her or that you really just didn’t like her and it was payback in some cruel way, but the real root reason why you don’t tell her is because you don’t care.
How many times have you walked around smiling at everyone you pass only to find out later when you get in the car and look in the mirror that your smile is a little greener than normal? Or when you sit down in a meeting and find a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe that you didn’t notice until you crossed your legs? Or discovering when you get home after a long day of work that you have been walking around with a big rip in your dress or a large hole in your pants or even worse, your zipper has been down and you have no idea how long.
The thought and question that immediately comes to your mind is are you kidding me, why didn’t anyone tell me? They didn’t tell you because no one cared enough.
As a teammate or even a leader, do you care enough to be bold with others before they embarrass themselves or continue to believe that their performance is excellent when in reality it is sub-par? When someone ask for feedback on a paper or report, are you completely honest?
I bet most of you are nodding your head and saying “yes, I am willing to do any of those things.” I believe a few of you, but I respectfully disagree with the rest of you 🙂
If I can walk around all day with a piece of lettuce in my teeth and not one person cares enough to tell me except my wife when I get home (this has actually happened to me), why would I believe you would tell me my presentation sucks before my big day in front of the leadership team tomorrow?
Those who do care enough to be respectfully bold and direct, to provide the difficult feedback and to have the difficult discussions are a huge blessing to their teams and organizations.
Next time you see a co-worker or someone on your team with a piece of lettuce stuck in their teeth, honestly ask yourself whether you really care enough to tell them.