Communication is a skill – one that needs to be practiced to be perfected in a leader. And the root of all effective communication is honesty.
Unfortunately, CEOs and business owners often think that means totally unfiltered “brutal honesty” – however insensitive or accusatory. It’s no surprise that this method usually backfires and, over a sustained period of time, can lead to disheartened employees, high turnover and a lack of trust in management. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When honest communication is positive and constructive, it helps leaders build and maintain strong, loyal teams.
Here are four steps to open up lines of communication and become the “honesty standard leader” for your team:
1. Show the “real you”
Do people see who you really are, or are you playing a role? The fact is, people can see through your “act” more easily than you think. And those around you deserve to know the real you – not just the image you want to present as “the boss.” Admit that you’re human and share vulnerabilities with your team. Be honest about who you are and what’s going on in your life (the good and the bad), and your team will actually trust you more. They’ll begin to share their own stories and become more cohesive.
2. Take time to listen
ou’re a leader. You’ve made it your business to do things the way you envision them in order to start your own company and make your dreams a reality. However, that doesn’t mean you should block out advice from others – especially when it’s coming from your employees. Open yourself up to honest criticism and invite feedback about areas you may be overlooking. By trusting your employees with that kind of critique and seeking solutions that will benefit everyone, you’ll begin to encourage higher levels of truth in the workplace and gather the best ideas.
3. Surround yourself with honest people
Are you surrounded with lots of “yes” men and women? If people are just telling you what they think you want to hear, there is no benefit – least of all to your business. Ask for regular “truth checks” with your team. Are they providing ideas freely – especially those that might differ from yours – or do they hesitate to voice their opinions? Surround yourself with people bold and truthful enough to disagree with you. Without dissenting opinions, you’ll never exit your comfort zone, which will limit your personal and professional growth.
4. Accept your imperfections
You may be the one in charge, but you will never have all the answers. No one person can handle everything, and that includes you. Gather a team of truthful people who balance out your weaknesses with their strengths. Empower them to do what they do best, and play to everyone’s strengths – including your own.
Don’t hesitate to be vulnerable and open up in a genuine way with your employees. Genuine leaders don’t need to be “brutal” – just honest. Try it. Your employees – and you – will notice the difference.
I can’t think clearly if I know I have a backlog of tasks piling up so I always follow the 5 minute rule, both at work and in my personal life; if a task requires less than 5 minutes of my time, I do it then and there. Always having a huge to-do list doesn’t make you a great leader, it just gives you severe anxiety.
Taking responsibility for your actions is a huge deal breaker for me. I’ve seen so many people blaming their employees or anything but themselves when things don’t go according to plan. No one gets it right every time so stop acting like you do.
Put your team’s needs before your own. When you show empathy and confidence you push your employees to do the same. There are so many toxic workplaces that could break down anyone’s spirit that by creating a positive and productive environment you are already in the top.
Best advice I ever read was ‘You manage things; you lead people’. When you show up, day by day, do your share of tasks and actively help others to do so you are applying the best principles of strategic leadership.