May 2013: Nip Conflict in the Bud

Business is nothing but a mass of relationships: people working with people.  And whenever that happens, conflict naturally arises.  Sometimes it’s based on a tangible disagreement about a strategy or approach.  Other times, it comes from a simple unresolved misunderstanding.

Working in an increasingly flat and diverse environment means that there are infinite opportunities for stylistic and cultural misunderstandings. A direct, cut-to-the chase communication style might be interpreted as attacking; a less direct style might be considered sneaky. One might assume that because a person behaves a certain way, it means they’re being intentionally difficult or that their intentions are less than honorable.

Left unaddressed, these types of assumptions can turn into full-blown conflicts that can erode trust, teamwork, and performance.  As a leader, it is crucial that you step up to these situations and expect your people to do the same.  Demonstrate courageous conversations about the behavior you’re observing – and its impact. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from.  By having the right real conversation, you can turn the misunderstanding into a moment of enlightenment that strengthens the relationship and enhances teamwork.

November 2012: Engage in straight-talk.

November brings an election of the 45th U.S. President and the conclusion of a campaign season that tested the best of us. Nowhere is there a better example of the need for straight-talk than in the political arena, where we are forced to fact-check everything that comes out of a candidate’s mouth. 

In this environment of information overload, people crave truth and simplicity – especially from their leaders. Credibility – not spin - is the highest form of influence, and a key way to achieve credibility is to tell it straight. Being honest, forthright and authentic in your communication helps you earn the trust of your colleagues and audiences. And a little trust goes a long way.

Straight-talk means delivering the truth even when it’s bad news. It means admitting our mistakes. It demands us to talk about consequences in very realistic terms. Straight-talk means ditching the jargon and buzzwords and refusing to hide behind qualifiers and hedge words. It calls upon us to be courageous and speak our truth in terms that a high schooler can understand.

Today, give yourself a gut-check.  Are you telling it straight?