Mark Pearl

Once upon a time, there was a software engineer passionate about creating great software. He worked at a tech company on a critical project. One day he attended an important meeting about the project, with several senior leaders of the organisation present.

As the meeting progressed, a PowerPoint slide was shared with some numbers that the engineer thought could be misleading. Although the engineer was concerned, he was hesitant to speak up. So many senior leaders were present - he didn’t want to waste anyone’s time - so instead, he remained silent and, after the meeting, approached one of the leaders to share his concerns. Unfortunately, the leader never took it further.

Weeks later, the business had an emergency - the engineer was proven right - people had misinterpreted the numbers, and the company had made an important decision incorrectly!

The next few days were spent trying to undo that decision with many meetings being held. Luckily it was reversible, and the tech company quickly moved on to the next challenge in its quest to become a unicorn. While fundamentally, the tale of “The Tech-Emperors New Clothes” differs from “The Emperor’s New Clothes” - in the Tech-Emporers tale, there isn’t any intentional deception - in both, there is a valuable lesson about having the courage to speak up in a group!

In the Tech-Emporers tale, the engineer did a good thing by expressing his concern to his leader, AND there are better ways. A better way was if the engineer had spoken up during the meeting. Many people would have heard the engineers’ concerns, the likelihood of him being understood would have been higher, and the risk of misinterpreting the numbers would have been significantly lowered.

So, if you are in a meeting where a number looks off or can be misinterpreted, be brave and voice your concerns. I understand that this can be incredibly difficult. I know there are cultural and people complexities to take into consideration, and this is the better way.

What do we learn as leaders:

  • We must create a supportive environment where people feel comfortable voicing their concerns or speaking up.
  • We must always work on our listening skills.

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