To the Point

No matter what position we hold within an organization, or what place we are in our career, we all need mentors. At the very least, we need colleagues with whom we can seek professional advice in order to get open and honest feedback as well as spitball ideas.

I am often asked what traits I look for in a mentor or colleague. I find myself drawn to folks that are open, honest and direct. Over the course of my career, I have learned the most from people that practice the art of being direct. I say �practice,� because I think there is a skill to being thoughtfully direct without intentionally hurting a team member�s feelings or belittling them. 

I realize that being completely open and direct can cause a bit of anxiety. You don�t want to make a colleague feel bad and or engage in conflict. There are also times when one�s instinct is to believe that telling folks what they want to hear is more comfortable than being honest and upfront.

However, the reality is that beating around the bush doesn�t ultimately work and it takes away from what is important�getting the job done. Being direct, straightforward and honest with colleagues is the only way to go in my experience. 

Direct communication has a lot of benefits, and there are ways to speak openly and honestly without being punitive or demeaning. By being direct you:

  • Build trust with your team. 
  • Demonstrate that you are honest and authentic.
  • Show that you respect colleagues by telling them the truth.
Being direct is also much more efficient than avoiding the problem. Direct communication cuts through the drama, saving energy, time and money.

They are ways to be direct while being mindful of others and their feelings. Here are a few tips:

  • Provide feedback that is about the quality of the work and not the person doing it. 
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be constructive rather than aggressive.
  • Don�t put others in the middle. Speak directly to the source and focus on their work and not that of others.
  • Ask follow-up questions to make sure you are being heard and that you are both on the same page. 
  • Work to come to an understanding and get �buy-in� from the team member before ending the discussion.

The reality is that there are times when discussions with team members are not going to be fun, and you have to give feedback that is hard to hear. But if you approach the conversation with honesty and thoughtfulness, the news is much more likely to be received in the spirit in which it was intended, and you and your team can move forward with the great work you are looking to accomplish.

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