Correcting Superiors


Hi, everybody. I’m Mike Staver. This is Mondays with Mike, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people just like you. Here’s this week’s question.

“I’m a mid level leader in my company. My boss often says things in meetings that are flat out wrong. I’m not sure why he says these things. Some of them are insignificant and just annoying, but other things are material to our success and strategic focus. What should I do?”

First, ignore the things that are just annoying, right? I mean, because if he says things that are wrong, whatever. If you’re correcting them all the time, you know, you’re going to become unemployed. Who wants that, right?

Poke the boss all the time is not necessary. Plus, remember that you always praise in public, criticize in private. Always acknowledge in public, correct? That’s very important. Now, if it’s significant, or material to your success or strategic focus, that’s different. This is a phrase that I suggest to all my clients, so feel free to use it. “As a point of clarification…” or “Just to clarify…” so that you’re able to go on from there. Don’t say “As a point of clarification that’s actually incorrect” but rather point to the thing that isn’t correct, so “As a point of clarification, our gross margin was actually blah blah…”

Now, if this boss has an ego, and all bosses have egos, but if they’re egotistical – I’ll give you an example. Recently I was working with a company and the Executive Vice President said something that was flat out wrong and I knew it was wrong, but it was in a room full of other leaders in the company. And I don’t work there, obviously, so I waited until after the meeting and said “Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware that this is what’s going on, this is a point of clarification.” He said “I know. I didn’t tell them all the truth on purpose because they’ll get all nervous and start running for the hills.” I’m thinking good, if I would have corrected that in the meeting, I was probably out of a contract. So, if it’s a big deal, like if the truth were known in the meeting, don’t be sharing stuff that publicly because you don’t know what conversations he or she has had, have it afterwards and just give them a heads up about it, say you want to make sure you’re all on the same page or whatever. Otherwise you could find yourself in a world of hurt.

The second thing is if it keeps happening and it’s material to your leadership as a mid level leader, you need to really be getting things like emails and writing conversations about clarification. So “Here’s what the plan is.”, “Is that still the plan?” You need to double, triple, verify and clarify. It’s really very important. Otherwise you can go off down a road and then one day your boss asks what you’re doing and you find yourself in a mess.

I hope that’s helpful, take care.

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