Why Leaders Need To Talk Straight

In far too many company meetings, and also in one-on-one human interactions, we all have a tendency to not talk straight. Here’s the scenario, the leader asks the group “is everyone in agreement on this new plan?”, everyone nods in agreement or just sits silent.

Fast forward to a little while into the future where the meeting after the meeting is taking place, and there’s skepticism, disagreement and questions. You’ve seen this before and perhaps even participated in it. Why does this happen? There is a lack of trust in the group. It’s a source of frustration for leaders and managers everywhere, but many have yet to identify the trust exchange which is missing from the equation.

A primary reason people do not speak up or talk straight is because they are human beings. In many ways, all of us have become enslaved to the opinions of others. Others’ opinions shape what we value, what we believe, they shape our thoughts and feelings and ultimately, our behaviors and actions. If we have a really high approval need, it gets very complicated and difficult from there. The action of talking straight requires the person to have courage, strength and the decision to first extend trust before receiving it.

Why should we talk straight?

It’s good for us and it’s good for the organization.

The flip side of talking straight is sometimes, we are wrong. Talking straight is not facilitating an argument. It is sharing your thoughts, and feelings from your point of view about something, knowing perhaps your point of view could possibly be flawed by wrong assumptions and/or lack of understanding. This also takes strength, because people who have a high need to be right can struggle with this. The awful trap we fall into is we begin to believe our opinion of point of view does not matter, which causes us to withhold it.

There are two reasons why we withhold something. Either we feel inadequate in some fashion or we don’t feel the other person deserves what we have. In the case of the latter, we have no respect for the organization or the other person.

Should we give unlimited voice to anything and everything on our minds? No.

I wouldn’t go up to someone and ask them if they bought that tie in the 70’s, for instance. You catch my drift? I want to establish trust, not smash it. You can not make your company exceptional without the ability to talk straight which carries with it a risk. The risk is that I might have an excellent point on which things possibly change, or I could be incredibly missing the mark, in which case, I’m comfortable being wrong but becoming freshly informed and educated.

As a leader, do you want to run the risk of a possible great idea remaining inside someone’s head instead of being shared and possibly implemented to make things better? Do you want to run the risk of your people remaining in the dark, while they think they are in the light? No, I know you don’t. That’s why you have to encourage the behavior of talking straight and the exchange of trust, it causes growth and exceptional performance.

This is one of those things that is up to each of us as individual leaders to model the behavior we wish to see in others, it takes courage to develop it, but we all can do it.

Keep me updated on your progress!

Tony

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