Achieving organizational clarity requires many leadership skills. The ability to have a candid conversation is one of the essentials.
The need for candor was impressed upon me again recently when I (Rip) was working with a client to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). We had already put effort into thinking about how their business should be structured and what seats would be needed on the leadership team to optimize their operations, efficiency, and productivity. We were now in the stage where we were discussing who the right people were to fill those seats.
In our session, a participant presented an argument that she was the right person to be promoted to one of the leadership team seats. The owner of the business heard what she had to say, then looked at her and said, “I actually don’t think you’re the right person for that seat.”
He then went on to explain his position: “That seat has a lot of management responsibility attached to it. I don’t think that is the best use of your skills. You are outstanding at providing consulting on your area of expertise. In your current role, you contribute exponentially to our clients and to your fellow team members. In a management seat, we would not be taking full advantage of your unique abilities.”
Let’s stop there for a moment. This business owner did everything right. He was:
- Direct. He spoke to the woman without hesitation. He didn’t evade the issue; he didn’t put it off; he didn’t pass the buck.
- Honest. He highlighted the woman’s strengths and pointed out how they best fit within the company, and explained why changing her role would undercut the value she could deliver.
- Respectful. He practiced active listening and then replied with courtesy and consideration.
That was a candid conversation: direct, honest, and respectful.
Here is the (perhaps surprising) outcome: the woman looked at the owner and said, “You know what? I’m relieved to hear you say that. I thought I was ‘supposed to’ push for this higher level management seat, but I actually don’t want it. I agree with you. I think I am better – and happier – in my current role. I really appreciate you saying what you did.”
If the business owner had avoided the issue or caved to pressure, the woman would have been promoted to a position she didn’t want and her many talents would have been wasted. She would likely have become demotivated very quickly and possibly even left the company. The open conversation ensured a win-win situation for her and the company.
As a leader, have the courage to be candid. That never means being rude or abrasive. It always means being direct, honest, and respectful. Doing so will bring out the best in everyone, for the ultimate good of your business.