Say What You Mean
There will be times in business when it will be challenging to deliver direct, candid communication. Maybe it will be some bad news about someone’s performance. Or perhaps it will be a mistake you’ve made that’s going to impact your team or the organization. Regardless of what it is, disclosing certain truths may hurt people’s feelings, which is why it can be tempting to beat around the bush or sugarcoat the message. But don’t do it. Anytime you skate around the truth or give a watered-down version of an important reality, it can be misinterpreted or misunderstood, generating even bigger troubles later on. So as a leader, make peace with this fact: People deserve the truth and, deep down, want to know it. Be tactful and empathetic as the need arises, but fearlessly tap your courage to say what you mean. Be honest in all your communications to avoid compromising that integrity you so need for your job as a leader.
Being frank with others isn’t easy to do all the time and with everyone we know. Yet like any good habit, being direct in your communication gets easier with practice. Here are three areas in which you can regularly exercise great transparency:
Addressing employee performance. Think about your last few employee-performance reviews—did you effectively communicate that person’s weaknesses or areas that needed improvement in a candid way? At times, I’ve been guilty of avoiding the full scope of truth and it’s something I’ve worked on improving because it shortchanges the employee if you’re not honest. It’s not fair to that individual and their potential to grow as a professional, nor does the avoidance tactic benefit you. After all, it’s impossible to take the right corrective actions if a problem itself isn’t accurately and honestly surfaced. Through effective, candid feedback tools and communication, you can say what you mean and get the point across that you also mean what you say.
Addressing co-workers’ behaviors/actions. There are times when you recognize that a coworker needs the truth from you because they have an annoying habit or a particular issue that is holding them back. Demonstrate courage and your altruistic concern by pulling that person aside to provide feedback. Realize that you owe that individual the truth because you genuinely care about his/her performance, professionalism and overall wellbeing. State the problem you see but refrain from dishing out unsolicited, canned advice to avoid creating any relationship gap. Share your own past experience(s) with the issue—and how you resolved it—and you’ll build a bridge instead.
Addressing those in your personal life. Leaders who can be straightforward with people at work tend to be truthful with people in their personal lives, too. The same approaches they use to say what they mean with their employees and co-workers usually works well with their families and friends, too. These universal communication skills support environments of integrity and strengthen relationships, even the bonds of love. Ask yourself how direct you are with those you call friends or family? What’s the impact been? How could you be doing better? There’s no better time then now to start working on this aspect of your personal life. Commit to uncover opportunities for improving transparency in your personal life. Then consistently strive to build and practice good, honest communication habits, and it will help free you from unnecessary hardships in those relationships you cherish.
What practices can we put in place at work to check whether we’re being truthful with others or not?