What is your most embarrassing moment?
Crying at school. I was 13! Not what teenage boys do 😬
At work, it’s not failure people avoid.
It’s these gut-wrenching, high-emotion, embarrassing moments.
Some managers however do the opposite.
They use embarrassment as a tactic. Showing how clever they are and how stupid everyone else is.
I’m sure you are not one of those managers.
Even so, you can accidentally embarrass others without knowing it.
Long-time readers will know about the power of questions.
The best leaders ask great questions.
Questions can lead to embarrassment.
- I don’t know the answer (and I don’t want to admit it)
- I don’t know what is meant by the question (and I don’t want to challenge)
- I know an answer, but it’s not an answer the leader will want to hear.
This reduces the quality of thinking. It stops everyone from learning.
You can help reduce the embarrassment.
Use phrases like this:
- "This is a hard question, if you don’t know the answer, come back to me later."
- "If any of the questions are unclear or not useful, please do feel free to push back."
And when things get embarrassing, acknowledge the moment, don't hide it.
- “Well, this is embarrassing…I have an observation that might be hard to hear, would you like to hear it?”
There is much talk about failure and psychological safety. Yet very little about embarrassment. But the more I think about it, really that’s what all of us want to avoid.
I could finish by asking for your most embarrassing moments, but I don’t want to embarrass you further.