The 60-Second Consultant

By Timothy Bentley

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Macron Gets His Feedback

11 December 2018

by Timothy Bentley

The events of the past month in France have implications for us all. 

When Emmanuel Macron’s government proposed new taxes on fuel, anger erupted about all manner of sleeping discontents. Not just from drivers, but people who live in the provinces, the struggling poor, and the lower middle class. 

Here was Macron, doing his responsible part to save his people from devastating climate change. The blowback took him by surprise.  

And what has that to do with us? 

Blowback

Just this. The fuel tax was the match that ignited other serious discontents. 

Put it another way. Whenever we, as governments, as organizations, as family members, fail to listen to the concerns of our stakeholders, we’re risking the possibility of blowback. It can be vehement, ugly, destructive, and/or unstoppable. 

And no one is immune. Organizations, governments, and families operate with the implicit agreement of their members. 

Appear to breach that agreement, and we may find ourselves on the wrong side of a devastating resistance. 

Pushback

That’s why everyone who governs an institution needs to make sure that they are getting frank, brave feedback from the people they affect. 

It’s courtesy, yes, but more. It’s survival. 

Most of us grew up in an age where legitimate leaders could impose their decisions and weather a certain amount of pushback. But things have changed. Social media make grievances more visible today, and empower the demagogues willing to exploit them.  

Not even the best intentioned leader can ignore that. 

Feedback

Only those who listen intently to feedback, who attend to the sleeping discontents and respond appropriately, are likely to thrive.  

I believe in 360-degree feedback; it’s my business. But more profoundly, I believe that courageous and honest feedback is the key to conciliation. 

Macron’s debacle spotlights three instructive terms: blowback, pushback, and feedback. 

The explosion of blowback results from leaders who fail to respond to legitimate pushback. And even pushback can be avoided when they attend to the valuable insights of day-to-day feedback.

Timothy Bentley is Chief Operating Officer of Panoramic Feedback.