founder of naked leader

How to “stab people in the stomach”

Naked Leader Week – 245 – Monday 18 February 2008

Leadership from a different perspective – open, honest, respectful

How to “stab people in the stomach”

Eighteen months ago – in NL Week 163 (link) – I wrote about the fastest way to be one team:

How? By simply deciding that from this moment on you will never – never – say anything behind any of your team’s member’s backs, that you would not say to their face.


 … but not easy

 Do this, and you will have the most honest team meetings, behind closed doors. In public you will be as one.

And the other day, at a conference, I was asked “How?”

Because since then, one company has coined this as a values mantra of “Showing, and sharing, ultimate respect”

Another uses the phrase “Elephants in the room, not waiting outside”

And another “We stab each other in the stomach, never in the back”

So, HOW do you have such honest conversations and achieve a desired outcome, for both/everyone

Firstly – remember the key is “that you would not say to their faces” – so you can say whatever you wish, as long as you then say it also to the person themselves, even if this is afterwards.


  1. One to One – Personal and Private – in your own way
  • Check in advance that it is OK to speak the truth – and that this is a private meeting
  • Say that you respect this person enough to want to say this to their face, and not behind their back
  • Say what you want to achieve as a result of this discussion – your mutual desired outcome
  • Look people in the eyes and say what you have to say, professionally, as directly as you think they can handle, and with care for their feelings
  • When you have finished, let them be defensive, to have a go back and to have a rant – and gauge the situation – either have an argument, or listen to what the person says. At the very least, you can agree to disagree
  • Always end on a positive – thank them for listening and agree that if only more people had such open and honest conversations the world would be so much better
  • Emphasise that you will not share anything that has been said in this meeting and shake hands


  1. Open and honest conversations are NOT bullying – to put a stop to bullying read enough is enough (link), from The Naked Leader Experience


  1. One to One – Performance Review
  • Building on 1 above
  • Focus on performance/behaviour and the issues, not the person – that person is separate from their behaviour (child psychologists tell me to say “That is very naughty behaviour” not “You are a very naughty child”)
  • Or, and ideally, let them mark their own performance:

How far dare you go…?

 Step One (A Given)

 Avoid the stress of performance assessment by putting in 360 degree appraisals (everyone is assessed from above, below and from their peers)

Step Two (Brave)

  • Avoid the greater stress of pay negotiation time by asking people to self-assess what they earn – when you get the culture right you will find people will mark themselves down, and include yourself in this

Step Three (You hero)

  • If you feel really brave, let your people decide how much you should receive. Get them together and tell them the “pot” is 100%. Invite them to split it openly with full agreement. If they cannot, ask them privately to indicate what they feel they each personally deserve, however make it clear you have the final say
  • I know several teams that decide their own pay every year
  1. In Meetings – Trusted team meetings:
  • Never say anything that is better said in private
  • Speak openly and honestly about all issues, and bring the truth into the room, yourself, if it affects more than one person in the room. Again, talk about the issue, not individuals, and offer a comment that you, yourself, could have done more, and that you are only raising this because you want it to be resolved
  • The Chairman of the meeting should know in advance that this issue is going to be raised
  • If you are chairing a team meeting, have a period of amnesty at the start – when people can say anything they wish, on any subject
  • If you are chairing a meeting, then pre-arrange someone to raise an issue with and about something you have done to set a standard and give ‘permission’ for others
  • Once you have set this standard, you will have open, honest, trusted team meetings, and less of them
  1. In General Business Meetings
  • Make true decisions – and check they are true
  • If anyone says an acronym, or uses language that you think someone else may not understand, then ask them what it means – even if you know – you are being strong, they are being the idiot
  • If anyone in the room runs someone else down, or a department, ask them what will happen when you raise this subject/issue with the people concerned

Overall, remember, this is about showing respect for each other – if you think it is polite, and respectful to stab people in the back, then keep doing it – remember though, that when you start that game, the knives are heading your way, as well

With respect, to your face


*        Focus on the issues, not the person





Leave a reply