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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

The Two Sides of Talking Straight

Every leader or manager has growth and development potential in the area of talking straight in our relationships.

I know as a consultant, without a healthy self-esteem, I would never be able to execute it effectively, because there is a fine line between doing what is right for my client and making them happy. Strong mature clients are able to accept the fact that some things that will grow their businesses or themselves may not be the way they had envisioned. This is why outside perspective is so powerful. We can break our paradigms and get insight into our blind spots.

As leaders and managers, it works the same way. There is a fine line in our relationships between creating trust with people by talking straight with them and creating hurt feelings or feelings of inferiority. When you hedge or don’t talk straight and you can create dysfunctional relationships which are based on a false sense of trust. When you talk straight without any thought about how the other person will receive it, you will create a wall of resistance to your feedback in the future.

Allowing a team member to continue to believe they are doing well when they are not is a leadership sin. The opposite is also true. I believe it will be very difficult for anyone to excel in a leadership role without a high value of people. If we value people highly, we want the best for them. In order to remind ourselves what is most important about our relationships, we must remember that people are valuable, and we want the best for them as people. For example, if a person is chronically late to a job, that is not just bad for the organization and the team, it’s bad for them as a person.

This thought should spur us on to talking straight, not suppress it. Great leaders embrace straight talk while still placing high value on the person. This prevents us from unloading on a person when we become frustrated with the continued behavior. After all, the behavior has become our fault, since we have not engaged in straight talk to address issues. The straight talk is, our people are a reflection of us, both good and bad.

So, in summary the two sides of talking straight are:

  1. People are people, not machines and should be valued

  2. Behavior which is not addressed will continue or worsen

Suggestions on using straight talk:

  1. Make sure you value the person when talking straight about behavior

  2. Lead with a couple of good things the person brings to the team

  3. Stay away from “but” when transitioning to the behavior which needs addressing, use “and at the same time, an area of improvement we need to address is”

  4. Think about your wife, husband, son or daughter, how would you like them valued by someone addressing an issue with them?

  5. Collaborate on a plan of improvement. Ask, don’t tell.

How can you contribute to my list?

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