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Calling bullshit…try it, you’ll like it

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Inspired by a conversation over lunch with a mentee in November 2014 ~ originally posted on my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyfijan/ 

After an engaging and spirited lunch conversation with a new mentee, she thanked me by simply saying, ‘I need someone to call out my bullshit’.

In that moment of genuine gratitude, I reflected on the true importance of calling out bullshit in the workplace – whether, for example, command and control behaviours, office bullying, made to look pretty metrics or the ‘try it, you’ll like it ’cause it’s awesome’ strategies. Or that which holds you back as a leader.

Sheryl Sandberg is absolutely bang on about women needing to lean in – and I’d add, in the process, getting comfortable and better at calling out bullshit without being labelled as being emotional.

People are emotional, healthy debate is emotional – and if you are in it to win it, business is emotional. The question is whether or not we as leaders are mature and skilled enough to handle it effectively, with grace, and still move forward at a meaningful pace.

I know a leader who is aptly skilled at calling out bullshit, as he literally calls out ‘bullshit’. No offense is taken – it’s a point of view that helps steer dialogue in a transparent fashion and moves the group forward. It is respected and it is well received.

Is courageous authenticity innate? Does it become more prevalent if you have the coveted two or three executive initials in your business title? Does calling out bullshit lead to being scolded about needing to be more political in approach and less emotionally charged? Or is calling out bullshit celebrated and a way of being in your organization? Are companies now faced with an evolved internal conflict which hinders organizational effectiveness because of outdated hierarchical performance management systems and beliefs?

As organizations charge forward in a brand new world, where the new way of working feels like doing a 100 meter dash for the duration of a marathon whilst high jumping 25 feet every 400 meters – all leaders need to muster the courage and conviction to call out bullshit – especially that which is first within themselves.

Try it, you’ll like it.

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