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.