Have you ever wanted your boss to ask you about your career goals?
Have you ever wished a co-worker would stop the excessive and distracting chatter?
Have you ever hoped you’d be asked what processes are holding your team back?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting any of these things – but if you’re hoping others are going to intuitively know what you want – you’re going to be disappointed.
Because mind reading isn’t a real thing.
Too often we hesitate to express ourselves for fear of upsetting others, or worry that we will be seen in a negative light. If this is you, it’s time to change your thinking.
Say what needs to be said
I once worked for an executive who not only encouraged his team to speak up, but to say what needed to be said. Not because he liked to incite conflict but because when things go unsaid it quickly erodes morale, reduces productivity and is ultimately bad for the business.
The office culture actually revolved around this credo and the team’s success reflected it. Employees felt confident about speaking up about important issues and the team understood that the intent was well placed. Whether it was a desire to build new skills or deliver a difficult message about a client account, everyone was accustomed to saying what needed to be said.
A recipe for disaster
Pretending things are A-Okay when in fact they’re not is a slow descent into the abyss. When we fail to address issues, whether it be our own career development or a pressing business matter, things begin to fester. As time goes on matters devolve and issues worsen.
While you don’t get to pick the culture of your workplace, you do get to decide how you are going to handle yourself. And take it from me, you can say what needs to be said, even in an organization that is painfully inept at hearing it.
Here’s how you do it:
Put your organization first. When delivering a difficult message always keep in mind why it’s important to the organization that the information is shared. When you take yourself out of the equation it’s easier to deliver the message.
Empathy is important. There are times when we must say something that will be difficult for the recipient to hear. Empathy can make these conversations not only easier but productive. (I’m not sure who to attribute this quote but it has always resonated with me when it comes to delivering a difficult message, “Honesty with empathy is compassion, honesty without empathy is cruelty.”)
Practice saying what needs to be said. The more you speak up, the easier it gets. Believe in your ability and in the importance of your words. Always be professional and don’t let others dissuade you from doing the right thing.
Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. Information doesn’t always make it to management. Believe it or not, managers and executives don’t know everything that’s going on in each work group. They need you to keep them informed so they can be effective in their roles. While there are some executives who prefer to believe that everything is unicorns and rainbows, 100% of the time, most want the truth – you have a responsibility to deliver it.
Managers share the responsibility
As a manager you should:
- Encourage an environment in which your team feels comfortable bringing you the unvarnished version of reality. Support publicly the practice of saying what needs to be said.
- Don’t react emotionally when presented with something difficult. The situation probably doesn’t need to be solved immediately, so take some time before deciding on next steps.
- Don’t shoot the messenger. If you have employees who are willing to say what needs to be said, foster that dynamic and thank them for bringing you the information.
- If your employees seek to discuss their career growth with you, have that conversation. Explore their goals and offer honest feedback and suggestions. This is how you develop talent.
Mind reading is an interesting concept and makes for intriguing story lines in works of fiction – it does not, however, have a role in the workplace.
Now is the time for you to go confidently forward and “Say what needs to be said!”
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