Stop Cherry Coating Your True Opinion



Too often in business, people want to be nice, avoid conflict or not upset their boss or co-workers by stating their true opinions.  All that does is create problems for all involved.  You get frustrated that the business is not going in the direction you think is most logical.  And, the listener is provided an opinion from you, which they think you are supportive of, that is potentially the wrong direction for the business and not truly what you feel is the right thing to do.  Hence, keeping the listener headed in the wrong direction.   In business, and particularly in startups where you cannot afford to waste time or resources heading down the wrong direction, there is only one mandate to live by:  always call it like you see it, regardless your role or title.


I was recently at a client planning session.  Before the meeting, the COO and CFO were confiding in me that they felt the CEO was heading in the wrong direction, and they wanted the business to make a material pivot to keep the company from wasting any further resources going down a “snake hole”.  But, when the time came during the meeting for them to communicate that belief to their CEO, they refused to state that opinion.  And, worse yet, they succumbed to the “my way or the highway” personality of the CEO, and verbally told him they were in agreement with the CEO’s direction (despite their true feelings to the contrary).  In the meantime, the team is getting burned out and is losing confidence in their leader, and the CEO has no idea that employee dissatisfaction is monopolizing the talk around the water cooler, and has employees looking for the door.  What a mess!!

So, I have no problem stating my true opinion.  I decided I would raise the topic with the CEO, on behalf of the COO and CFO, but with the message coming from me, not them.  And, guess what?  The CEO didn’t lop off my head.  He listened thoughtfully, and it stimulated a healthy conversation on how best to fix the business.  Had I not been there to deliver the message, the business would still be staring over the edge of the abyss.  This is not about kudos to me for saving the day; this is about the lack of kudos to the COO and CFO  that lacked the strength of stating their true opinion to their CEO, regardless of not wanting to upset him or triggering off his explosive personality.


When you are managing a team of employees, you owe it to them to be honest with them.  If you don’t clearly communicate they are not doing a good job, they won’t know how to improve.  If you don’t clearly communicate you disagree with their ideas, you are losing out on an opportunity to help mentor them into your desired direction.


On the flipside, as an employee, it is not healthy to think one thing and say or do another.  Your boss didn’t hire you to keep your good ideas to yourself, even if those ideas are in direct contradiction to the current beliefs of the team.  You can’t be so worried about upsetting your boss (or worse yet, losing your job), by putting your true opinion on the table.  The upside is, your good ideas will resonate and get adopted.  The worst case, they disagree with you and you move on.  And, if management continually shoots down your ideas, maybe that is a signal that is not the right company for you (or vice versa).


Nowhere in this post am I recommending you be mean, rude or disrespectful when delivering your opinion.  All I am saying is, always say what you truly are thinking, for maximum satisfaction and optimal business results for all.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Luke Jones

About the author: George Deeb

George Deeb is a managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a Chicago-based startup consulting and fundraising firm with expertise in advising Internet-related businesses. More of George’s startup lessons can be read at “101 Startup Lessons — An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.”

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