If there was one skill that I wish I could bestow on the general population, it would be to be able to speak one’s mind gently but clearly and concisely; in a way that builds the relationship and trust in the relationship, rather than destroys it.
It seems to be that despite decades of “effective communication” courses, managers and employees still struggle to say their piece in a way that is constructive rather than destructive, and at the time that it needs to be said.
The impact of this is that small issues become compounded and then escalate into bigger issues. And it seems that once an issue reaches a certain threshold, people become vested in holding onto “their position” and then resolving it just becomes so much harder.
And yet, almost always, the person who would have been on the receiving end (or who ends up on the receiving end up so much later) wishes that they had been told properly/constructively/appropriately at the time, so that they could do something with that information.
And almost always, if you ask the person who needs to be doing the communicating, they don’t because of fear. Fear of what the person will say back to them, fear of what other people will think of them, fear of how the situation will explode/implode/get worse.
So, they do nothing, hoping it will blow over.
And of course, sometimes it does.
But too often, not only does it not blow over, it escalates or compounds. And then dealing with that situation is so much harder.
If there was a way to show people that it is easier to speak your piece, calmly and kindly at a time when the stakes aren’t so high, and emotions aren’t so raw; they would probably do it, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
So, if there is something that you know that has to be said, but you’re avoiding saying it; take a few moments to really ask yourself why. Is it really a “it will blow over” situation? Or is it more that you are scared to deal with it. And if it is that you are scared to deal with it (for whatever reason), ask yourself the following questions:
- What would the objective observer say was the likely outcome of dealing with it now vs leaving the situation to fester?
- When have you spoken your mind calmly, kindly and constructively and it went really well? What can you learn from that situation that you could use in this situation?
- Who else do you know that does this well? What can you learn from the way that they do it?
- What are you really scared of? And is that a reasonable thing to fear?
- What about this situation are you tolerating and what other impact is it having? Is that enough to give you the impetus to do something constructive with it?
- Is it an issue of not having the skills? In which case, how can you go about learning how to do this?
- What would be your ideal scenario for how best to resolve this?
And then commit to yourself to put in place a plan of action. Because remember, an important part of being a leader is modelling great behaviour and actions. So, treat other people how you too would like to be treated.
Until next week, happy leading.