Adam Bryant interviewed Christa Quarles, CEO of Open Table, in this week's New York Times Corner Office column. Quarles describes one important leadership lesson she learned when she became CEO of the firm:
The other surprise was that people were afraid to share things early on. Teams were trying to perfect something before they would show it to me, and they’d waste a ton of time trying to get it to be perfect to show to the C.E.O. So I said, “Early, often, ugly. It’s O.K. It doesn’t have to be perfect because then I can course-correct much, much faster.” No amount of ugly truth scares me. It’s just information to make a decision.
Awesome advice! You have to strongly encourage people to show you work earlier on, because they will naturally have a tendency to want to perfect it before exposing those ideas to senior leaders. Of course, how you then provide critique and feedback is essential. If you attack those ideas in a fashion that is not constructive, your folks will stop bringing you ideas "early, often, and ugly." You cannot invite those rough sketches and ideas without also considering how to critique those ideas differently than you might approach a near-finished proposal.