Mixed Messages From Managers

June 29, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

I just read the always-witty, short and sweet Seth Godin blog – and today it was on shortcuts… or shall I say, the otherwise deceiving detours we perceive to be shortcuts? It got me thinking of a totally separate, although somewhat related trend I see happening with the managers I consult: indirect communication.

At first, you may be struggling to see the similarities – so, let me draw you a picture. If you’re a manager, a coach, a leader of any talent, any type – the reality is that you deliver messages on a daily basis. Email, voice and face-to-face. Some messages are mundane, others are inevitable, and while the least anticipated are the hardest to deliver – all of it comes with the territory. You do it because you have to, not because you want to. Therefore, because you have little control over the messages you must deliver, you take control over how you choose to communicate them.

Instead of being direct, you sugarcoat the content or withhold some potentially helpful information. If you have a team member you need to fire or a client you need to rewire, you deliver the message, but attempt to dance around the difficult content, so that you don’t appear to be the bad guy. Although your intentions are good, your method is anything but alright. Ultimately, what happens when you don’t deliver a direct message? The person on the other end of the message leaves the conversation a little lost. Giving it to them straight allows them to hear what they need to hear. If you don’t do this, you are keeping insightful information from them. Yes, their feelings might be a bit protected – but you are doing them a developmental disservice in the meantime. In order to be developed, we have to hear direct messages. We must know the real reasons why what we’re doing isn’t working – and we expect our managers to be the ones that:

  • Identify our weaknesses
  • Communicate these directly
  • Offer supportive ideas on how to work on these going forward
  • Arrange future follow-up feedback sessions

Regardless of your leadership role, it’s your responsibility to be direct. It takes courage, confidence and a healthy dose of genuine concern to deliver direct messages – but your reports and your clients will respect you more in the long run.

So, back to Seth’s blog… delivering an indirect message is definitely a detour. You are taking what appears to be the shortcut, only to discover that those who follow you have gotten lost along the way. Don’t waste your time or your team’s time. Be honest, genuine and straightforward. You’ll get to your destination much faster, and you’ll do it with much more integrity than the alternative could ever offer you.

Are you interested in becoming a better leader? If so, take our complimentary leadership assessment: http://wcwpartners.com/superstar-leadership-model-self-assessment-download/.

Doug Watsabaugh is the COO of WCW Partners, a management consulting and training firm. You can reach Doug at: dwatsabaugh@wcwpartners.com or 1-888-313-0514.

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