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Are You Blunt of Bluff? Becoming an Assertive Leader Yet Approachable Leader

“Mean what you say, say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

– Unknown from The Prospersous Leader


In Chapter 3 of The Prosperous Leader, I discuss being an Assertive Leader: Are You Blunt or Bluff? There are many components to running a successful business, but listening to your employees, or creating a culture of “candor and openness”, can be on the most important and one of the most difficult.

Creating a candid culture in the workplace is not only about asking and doing, but also listening. In Chapter 17 of The Prosperous Leader I bring up empathetic listening, which can be accomplished by following 3 simple steps:

  • Give the person you are connecting with your full attention.

  • Do not speak when the other person is in the middle of communicating his or her issue.

  • When the speaker is done talking, offer a summary of what you have just heard.

In his article published by the Harvard Business Review, Joseph Grenny discusses 4 Ways Leaders Can Create a Candid Culture, and when paired with empathetic listening, creates an unstoppable work force:

  • Praise publicly. Grenny suggests creating a safe forum for people to raise questions—then speaking publicly about those who asked the questions in complimentary ways.

  • Prime the Pump. “When people don’t feel safe speaking up, leaders can show that it is safe by saying the hard things themselves”, says Grenny. If you’ve created a new work structure and are not receiving feedback on it – “open up the dam” yourself by asking, “What are the problems with the new work structure?” rather than skirting the issue.

  • Lead by Teaching. A good way to do this is to explore what Grenny refers to as “crucial conversations” — how to diffuse strong emotions, how to speak candidly without provoking resistance, how to quickly build rapport, and so on – between leadership and staff.

  • Sacrifice Ego. Grenny’s example was of a leader named Phil, who was told he was unapproachable. He used a team meeting as the place to bring up his misunderstanding with that label – and in turn sacrificed his ego and received many excellent tips on how to change his appearance with the staff.

For more information on creating a candor culture at work, please refer to Part 5 of The Prosperous Leader: Maximizing our Relationships with Others.

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