The following is an example of a common scene in my sessions with leaders.
Me: Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or thought something like this: “If someone has an issue with me or my work, tell me to my face. Don’t hold back or talk about it behind my back; give it to me directly. I can handle it.”
All or nearly all of the hands go up.
Me: Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever held back on giving someone tough feedback because you were concerned about protecting their feelings.
Again, nearly all of the hands go up.
Later, we talk about delivery, timing, tone, body language, and picking the right words.
But first, let’s clear up the double standard.
Most of us claim to want tough information delivered directly, yet we hold back on delivering it ourselves. This is normal, but let’s be honest:
It’s about our fears as much as it is about protecting the feelings of others.
In the name of kindness, we want people to let us know where we stand. It’s also kindness to find the right way to do the same with others. Leaders figure out the best way to talk about the issues instead of avoiding them. To claim that we want directness ourselves, then shy away from being direct with others is a double standard that the best leaders work to avoid.