Tim, one of your employees, comes into your office full of “you know what the problem is”…his saying for just about every issue he has uncovered. He has done it enough that you know it is his “go-to-line”. You think to yourself, “wow he has superhero vision, since he sees all the problems of the world. Why can’t he come in and tell me what problems he has solved?” Instead, what you actually say is: “what’s going on?”
Then there is Betty who says, “it will never work” to just about every suggestion or new idea to improve the process. She spends her time campaigning to anyone who will listen to her complaints. You think to yourself “ if she would spend this much time and energy searching for solutions instead of just complaining about the problem, we would be miles ahead of the competition.” What you actually say is: “now Betty, we have to think positive here.”
Or Frank, the Sales VP who is the fair-weather leader…always critical of new trends until everyone else on the Facebook community or the Google search universe says it is a hit. He then converts with not so much as an acknowledgement of his previously strong opposition. You think to yourself, “hmmmm…Really…what was that? Wasn’t HE the one that said ‘this thing won’t catch on’?” What you actually say is “Frank that is a great idea, I am glad we are going to implement it.”
Have you seen anyone like this? Your answer has to be “yes”. We have all been on either side of this type of conversation at some point in our lives. We are all blessed with at least one person whose anchor is negative, uninspiring and unimaginative. And we all know people who keep their opinions to themselves to the detriment of the team.
It is not surprising to me that, as leaders, we all have people who are disconnected from themselves and their greater inner positive power. But what is surprising to me is despite how much leaders really do care about their employees they do not always say the words that are rolling around in their head, heart and soul. Somehow we have this notion is it better to be politically correct, hold back the truth, maybe even lie with a smile, and keep our brilliance in our own heads rather than to share it.
With our friends and loved ones, we feel the freedom to share our opinions and thoughts. Political correctness goes out the window. We want the honest truth to keep us grounded, help us grow, and garner varying perspective.
Next time your employee or leader makes some comments that are less than flattering and you feel so inspired, ask, “Hey, would you be open to some advice?” Most people appreciate that you asked first and then you can proceed only if you are under the impression they are willing to be open and receive the advice. Asking first will actually make a difference.
So to Tim, Betty and Frank, here is what I would say to them if they were open to advice:
“Tim, what I like about you is your ability to identify problems. I would encourage you to come to me with your success stories of how you solved them. Now, if it is something big I need to know about, please flag the problem early, however if not, feel free to solve it and then share your success stories with me. Success stories are infectious you know”.
“Betty, you have been here for 15 years. You have seen this organization grow and change. Your work has contributed to our team’s success. In recent months I have sensed a change of heart. How are you feeling and what is going on? [Pause for her response] I am going to ask for your support of our new initiative as a veteran of the organization. If you can focus your energy on making the project and the team a success, we have a real chance at this. Do you recognize the power for good you have here? I guess my question to you is ‘are you using it’?”
“Frank….[LOL]…now wasn’t it you who said this social media thing was just a fad? I am glad we are going to get a Facebook company page. With 700 million users, there is a real opportunity to be where people are at in a cost efficient way.”
When dealing with tough conversations, be honest and truthful in an inspiring, kind and impactful way. If being honest is not politically correct, then it is not for us. As leaders, we have a higher calling and duty for our team.