Sometimes when leaders are urged to be more “clear” and “direct” with people, they make a clumsy attempt to do so, and end up accidentally being “brutal”.
Brutality leads to shame, and diminished engagement. Directness leads to clarity, and improved relationships because of less guesswork and more actual work.
Four habits to help you avoid crossing the line from “direct” to “brutal”:
- Use polite words like “please”.
- Address the person privately.
- Avoid using tone that is gruff, angry, or passive-aggressive.
- State the “why” or the outcome.
Direct: “Next week, please staple the cover pages to the TPS report before turning them in.”
Brutal: “What part of ‘staple the d@*# cover page to the TPS report’ do you not understand?”
Direct: “At our next meeting, please be on time. We can’t start without you, and your chronic lateness is a more serious issue than you seem to understand.”
Brutal: “Really? You’re late again? This crap has got to stop. You’re alienating everyone.”
Be clear and direct, not shaming or brutal.