Honest Leadership

The company line

Leaders are often faced with the task of delivering news to their teams, passing on the organisations message. Why is this the case? Why not just send out an email to everyone in the organisation with the news so there is no ‘lost in translation’ effect? One reason is that leaders should be in a position to deliver this message in a way that takes into consideration the impact to the team. I do not mean to change the message or water down the message, but a leader should know their team and how best to deliver this message.

Dodging the bullet

A common practice in bad leadership is to deliver the message as a dictate sent from above. This approach does achieve the goal of getting the information out to your team but it sews the seeds of doubt in you team, leading to questions about the news/decision. Questioning decisions is a healthy attribute in any team but those questions should be about the subject matter and not a sense of disagreement from their leader.

It is a bad idea to blame upper leadership for a decision

The team you are lucky enough to lead look to you for answers, support and direction. Building trust with a team is extremely important in achieving a cohesive, performant team. They are adults, they do not want propaganda or passing of the buck. Give them information in a caring way and do not dodge the bullet, own the news, it is a bad idea to blame upper leadership for a decision. Give and explain the information, then talk about it. The last part is key, if your team are angry, soak that anger up, it’s your job. Take the stress away from your team, it’s your responsibility.

Hold the sugar…

Sugar coating has its place in the bag of communication tricks but should be used very sparingly, just like actual sugar.

Honesty does not equal bluntness

Honesty does not equal bluntness, we want to avoid being blunt but without sugar coating. Get to the point without verbally smacking someone, instead of being blunt give the honest information and add context, this is critical.

An example: One of you team is not doing a part of his/her job as well as they could.

The blunt approach is to sit them down and tell them they are not doing their job well, this could easily lead to a confrontational situation which is makes neither party too open to suggestion.

A different way of handling that situation is to sit the person down and explain that whilst a lot of the activities they do in their job are going really well, there are some areas to improve on, this is the same for all people, none of us are perfect. Then give some examples of what you are referring to and actions to improve. This message should be delivered in a caring and helpful manner, this is sometimes a difficult thing to do depending on the situation, but is important.

Pleading the fifth

If you are caught in a lie or something you have stated has become a falsehood, do not dodge it. But do consider your response carefully. White lies are often necessary and your team are adults who can understand the reasons for this, explain it to them. If something which was once planned to be true has now become a falsehood, explain why this is the case, people are, for the most part, rational and understanding. In your personal life, your closest friends will have lied to you on occasion, when they admit the lie it allows healing to begin and like with broken bones can often fuse the relationship stronger than before.

Mirror time

Honesty also means being honest with yourself. Introspective's are a good way of measuring how honest you are being with yourself. Avoiding this kicks the can down the road and can make the path back more difficult. Ask yourself regularly am I being a good leader? As I write this I am thinking of things I could be doing better with my team, I am guessing this is the same for whomever reads this.

When you look in a mirror also notice that its another human looking back, give yourself a break, you’re not perfect.

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