Honesty doesn't have to be brutal. Treat people with grace and the game will change for the better.
The climate in pop culture right now is one that rewards people who are honest. And while that’s a great thing, I’ve also seen it get over-sensationalized and taken too far. We’ve gotten to a place where “brutal honesty” is praised and lionized. I think it crosses the line when it becomes brutal.
People who lead with integrity and honesty have historically done well. Everyone appreciates sincerity; we all want to see something genuine from people. Especially in the Instagram age. We get sick of the carefully curated personas depicting seemingly perfect lives all over social media. We want something real.
But even honesty can reach a point where it’s over sensationalized, taken too far, and crosses a line into cruelty.
People have a right to transparency but not when it crosses the line into making people feel bad. You can give feedback, even (and especially) negative feedback in a way that makes people feel heard, empowered, and capable. You can speak honest and even harsh truth in a way that situates people to improve and make good decisions rather than feeling beaten down.
This is something I’m recently coming to grips within my own leadership. It’s something that’s evolving within myself; something I want to get better at.
We’re surrounded by this constant narrative that we have to be brutally honest. It’s somehow tied to toughness to be brutally honest to a point of cruelty, as if considering someone else’s feelings is a weakness.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not only NOT a weakness, it’s also just plain bad for business.
When you give feedback in a way that breaks a person down and leaves them feeling disempowered, you’re not only hurting their feelings, you’re also damaging your relationship with your team, lowering the morale of your team, and hindering their ability to be effective and do their best work.
Grace, in this usage, is defined as both “courteous goodwill” and as “a virtue coming from God.”
As leaders, we can all be reminded that feedback is a critical building block to progress in people’s lives and careers. And negative feedback is just as important as positive feedback! You don’t have to coddle people and you shouldn’t refrain from sharing feedback because it’s unpleasant.
When you’re focused on nothing but being brutally honest about how you feel, you’re not providing constructive criticism or effective feedback, you’re just venting.
You aren’t remedying the issue, you’re just berating a person.
Which leaves the vast majority of people deflated and disempowered.
The next time you have to give feedback to someone on your team that’s critical or negative in nature, remind yourself to keep it empowering. Remember that you want to deliver this message with the utmost honesty, mindful of the desired outcome, and with some grace in it.
Your goal should always be to deliver your message in a way that is honest and leaves people with these five thoughts:
1. “I received the communication.”
2. “I understand it in its entirety.”
3. “I know what I need to do to improve.”
4. “I’m happy I’m being told about this so I know where I stand.”
5. “I know what I can do better next time.”
Deliver your message with those five criteria always present in your mind. That’s the ultimate goal of your communication.
I guarantee you’ll find you and your team are far more successful, happier, and more productive!