Honesty - The First of the Trifecta.
Updated: Jan 16
One of the most critical components of excellent leadership is the ability to communicate. Yes - commanding the stage and having oration skills that exceed the competition is a part of this. However, much more critical is the content shared and the way it is delivered. It is no surprise that I believe understanding the listener - truly walking in the shoes of those who are led - is the secret sauce. When this is done well, the leader isn't thinking about him/herself. The leader isn't considering reelection. The leader isn't worried about financials or backlash. Instead, the leader is considering how he can best support his/her constituents. And ironically, when this is done right, reelection, financial profitability and support all become a possibility.
So, how is this done? How do you, as a leader, build a communication strategy that lasts? With every message you craft and share, you think about these words: Honesty, Integrity and Discretion. Today, I will dive into Honesty.
We tell our kids all the time that telling the truth is critical. We go further, we tell them that if they tell the truth, we won't be mad - regardless of what they have done. Now, I am not entirely sure this is always true with our kids, but I do know that as a society we value raising our children with honesty. So, shouldn't we value the same for our leaders?
Whether launching a company or building a change management strategy, leaders often send messages out of excitement or fear. In too many instances, I have heard "I don't know the answer to that so I am not going to bring that up" or "that is going to scare people, so I won't mention it." This is a huge mistake. Your employees and community know when things are going to change. They can almost always feel when there is something to be concerned with. And as a leader, if you close off and avoid, you break their trust and the rumor mill begins. Now, don't misunderstand. The strategy of honest communication can not be taken lightly. You must provide guidance and language to not only communicate what is often uncomfortable but how your audience can work through the challenge.
Some common questions leaders can ask themselves when building their messaging:
1) When will this change or issue take place?
2) How will it affect your listeners?
3) When do you plan to communicate next?
4) What resources exist today and what are you building for the future? If there are no resources, be sure to share compassion with your listeners.
Being honest is not always easy. In fact, it is often uncomfortable. Lean into that discomfort. Respect your audience enough to share the truth. I promise it will pay off.
This post is part of a series on leadership communication. Check out the other posts here:
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