I am writing about something I am terrible at, and often petrified by. It’s uncomfortable. Yet this one simple habit makes for better leadership and relationships. It can also be disastrous, if mismanaged. I am determined to improve. It won’t be easy. Are you brave enough to join me? Truthfully?
All my life I have struggled with this one trait. Maybe it was the fear of hurting other people’s feelings? Or fear that somehow I’d look bad or inadequate if I did it. I’ve dodged it whenever I can, or approached it in a weird and circular fashion.
A good business or life coach does it well. The Brand Guy is advocating it. My sage counsel Rob is passionate about it. CEO Mike is good at it. I have role models. But still I struggle to do this one thing consistently. And I bet you struggle too. Here it is:
Speak with candour.
Candour is after all, telling the truth without malice. Not that I tell the truth with malice. I just don’t always tell the truth. And yet it’s not that I tell lies. It’s just that I don’t always speak out, to state my beliefs, objections, etc, bravely and firmly.
I got thinking about this when I read The Brand Guy’s post about ‘speak up’, “Speak up is simply an honest expression of our thoughts and feelings,” he writes. Yet I read that with a sinking heart, for I realised I often don’t speak out- to express my views genuinely and fully. Some of those who know me will dispute this- “Come on Chris- that’s bullshit. You’re provocative and blunt, often.” That’s true- but often I am simply afraid to say what I feel. I don’t know why. I just am.
So – I am going to make a big effort to speak with candour this year- to tell the truth without malice: with clients, colleagues, friends, relatives. This will also include not misrepresenting things (ok- little lies on occasion….ok, ok- relax……giant whoppers every now and then) about myself to put myself in a better light, or to somehow cover my butt. I have tentatively begun the journey. So far so good. It actually is quite invigorating.
Am I being hypocritical in saying that, sometimes, it’s okay to tell a fib? For example, to sometimes manage your communication when you know that candour- truth without malice- is going to be counter-productive and will unnecessarily hurt feelings? I reckon that’s ok. And we all know those occasions…. So while I will try to ‘speak up’ in 2013, I’ll also try to do it sensible and sensitively.
Question For You
Do you speak with candour? Be candid now. If not, will you join me in trying to improve this year, even by 20%?
And a ‘thank you’ to Rob Irving for the ‘Candour’ idea- a story he attributes to Tim Hamilton Russell, a founder of JWT South Africa.