Leadership Skill Shortage: Straight-Talk

Rejoicing TeamThere’s a definite shortage of the kind of leadership straight-talk that builds trust, engagement and confidence – all essential to high-performing organizations. The best leaders know how to engage in meaningful and actionable dialogue about both successes and improvement opportunities – while preserving and enhancing relationships.

Despite the common belief that people are either ‘natural’ communicators – or they aren’t, empathetic straight-talk is a skill that can be developed and sustained through focused practice. Despite barriers such as personality characteristics, time limitations, stress and impatience, learning to use emotional intelligence in both one-on-one and group communications is do-able – and the payoffs are huge.

The single greatest barrier is lack of ‘tools in the communications toolbox’. Leaders who are willing to identify and prioritize communication improvements, remain conscious of their goals in each interaction and practice using targeted ‘talking points’ can develop and sustain new behaviors that improve engagement, accountability and performance.

Yes, in the beginning it’s necessary to “fake it ‘til you make it” – in other words,

“Practice doing what doesn’t come naturally – until it does.”

New straight-talk skills become more comfortable and more natural with practice. It’s an investment in developing capabilities that enhance every aspect of your life.

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© Copyright 2013. Marilou Myrick/ Masters Among Us, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited in any format, in whole or in part, without the written consent of an officer of Masters Among Us, Inc. 

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2 Responses to Leadership Skill Shortage: Straight-Talk

  1. Marilou Myrick November 2, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks for the comments, Greg. You make some good points.

    Being other-centered is the core of leadership. You’re right that leaders who are focused on themselves can’t respond appropriately because their center of attention is in the wrong place. In the midst of stress and impatience, this is too often the norm. If it happens too often, people begin to lose trust in leadership.

    The ‘fake it til you make it’ idea refers to practicing specific behaviors until they become part of your leadership ‘muscle’. It is not unlike practicing music or golf, and can be accomplished even in the tsunami of constant meetings and deliverables – by focusing on one high-impact behavior change at a time. I provide my executive coaching clients with specific tools that help them to remain conscious of their primary goal at the beginning of every day, and before every meeting. It starts with awareness of the need for change and a resolve to continue in spite of frustration and the inevitable slip-ups, but the payoff can be truly transformational.

    Suggested reading: “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

  2. Greg Johnson November 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    The words “Empathetic Straight-Talk” are captivating in themselves. Your description of content in the “Communications Toolbox” bought to mind the whole platform of communications and authentic leadership.
    Authentic Leaders are engaging through their presence and communications. The key is the Authentic Leaders communications skills. Unfortunately, for an Authentic Leader there is little or no time to “fake it until you make it”. Why? Because you are always “On”. Because you are always on or present no matter where you go an what you are doing your communications skills MUST be right on each and every time.
    One key asset in communications with empathy is the ability to listen and hear first. Effective communications requires listening as a skill as a first step. Hearing is the next requirement and it is tough when there are so many things always on your mind. Following these two critical steps is the ability to respond appropriately.

    Authentic Leaders know how to make this happen without a hitch. People in Leadership positions with a focus on themselves can’t listen effectively; nor hear effectively and certainly can’t respond appropriately.

    Thank you for the stimulating boost for the day.


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