Do you find yourself bending the truth a little, perhaps to make a difficult message hurt less? Although your intentions may be good, sugarcoating situations can cross over the line into dishonesty. Integrity is at the heart of building credibility, which can be accomplished through straight talk. Here’s how.
Acknowledge the truth
If you find your team’s sales are down, don’t be afraid to own up to the numbers. If performance needs improvement, say so. Be honest about negative feedback or the need for improvement, but say it gently. Try not to single out an individual publicly, which will embarrass that individual and encourage a scapegoat mentality within the team. If there is a specific individual’s performance that needs to be addressed, talk to him/her privately.
Corporately, when addressing issues within the team, explain the situation tactfully but honestly. Nothing decreases your credibility like blaming or redirecting responsibility to others. Accept any of the responsibility that is yours and continue to maintain your integrity. A small person will run from responsibility, but someone who shoulders the responsibility and the consequences builds credibility and respect.
Stop candy-coating the unknown
“You’ll do fine,” or “It’ll work itself out, wait and see.” These words are almost programmed into our vocabulary. However, these phrases can sound empty – if not insulting – when used by leadership. In building credibility with your employees, do not make open-ended commitments to the future – you do not possibly know how things will turn out.
That does not imply being insincere. Be encouraging, giving a clear directive on how to improve the situation/issue, without giving unfounded assurances. This will ensure that you are not building expectations that may go unmet. One of the best ways to build credibility is to manage expectations – address the current situation straightforwardly, and go from there.
Focus on options
“The power of positive thinking.” We hear this all the time, and it does not need to be limited to our personal lives. By focusing on the positive aspects or the many options in a situation, you can change the tenor of the situation. By combining the forces of your group, new ideas will spring up, and when everyone is honest about the situation, progress is made. Acknowledge the problem, then focus on a clear plan for overcoming it. You continue to build credibility as you bring everyone together to look for options. Become a thought leader, empowering your team by using helpful straight talk to address the substantive issues.
Once you have these baselines covered, you will see the progress moving forward. Your credibility with straight talk will show others that you are here to lead and help. As the team overcomes obstacles together under your leadership, the culture of the group will improve significantly. Any new problems will be met with optimism and creativity, as you communicate and lead with integrity and empowerment.