One of the critical things that a leader must possess is honesty. Not only in the sense that they ought to be honest in their behavior, but also in that they must call things as they see them [see If You Can Only Focus on One Thing…]. Without doubt, leaders will come upon countless situations in which they must figure out the “right” way to say something to an employee or group of employees. For me, the easiest way to address these situations is to ignore the politics and just say what you believe to be the clearest, most honest communication you can put together. Often, people try to couch things in certain ways hoping that the desired message will be interpreted by the recipient.

I live by a philosophy that when a situation arises, I have a couple of choices to deal with it. One — I can say something about it; or, two — I cannot say something. For example, if an employee charged with an assignment does not perform to my expectations, I can tell them or I cannot tell them. For sure, the best thing that I can do to prevent similar situations from reoccurring is to tell them. After all, how would they know that they missed expectations or know how to correct things in the future without a clear, unambiguous communication telling them so? Some people find such communications difficult to hear — mostly those that have committed the undesirable performance. However, more often, people respond to such communications with appreciation for the honesty and the opportunity to correct course going forward.

Now, there can be no doubt that delivering such open, honest criticism can open one up to being labeled with less than desirable names. But, in a classic risk-reward trade off, it also can lead to being considered a clear, candid communicator. Without such communications, individuals who perform less than ideally, would not be given productive, fruitful criticism and, therefore, would not likely modify their future behavior or performance. Then, if such comportment is tolerated, others in the organization can witness this and come to the conclusion that senior management simply doesn’t care about the quality of employee performance. This belief, if allowed to fester and pervade an organization, can undermine myriad prospects.

So, in order to ensure the best team performance and outcomes, be sure to speak clearly, openly and as honestly as you can. To me, the risk of being negatively labeled is far worth the rewards of overall organizational performance gains to be had, as well as the respect which can be earned for demonstrating a focus on candor and integrity.

Nina Nets It Out: As I have stated in prior entries, “it is better to be respected and not liked than to be liked and not respected” [see Democratic Dictatorship]. In this vein, I strongly encourage those around me to speak openly and candidly with the focus being overall performance. Sometimes, it may create negative feelings, but when couched in the choice of “(1) saying something to make the person aware or (2) not saying something and hoping for positive change”, there can be no clearer answer than to say something as clearly as possible.