I love Chelsea Handler. She’s a straight shooter and doesn’t have much of a filter.
She just hosted a Q&A on Facebook Live with “Ghostbusters” star Melissa McCarthy. They answered audiences questions about being a boss. It was funny, but for those actually looking for help with their questions, I fear they didn’t get it. Her off the cuff tips may not have been super practical.
So I am here to help.
Most of the questions were about communication in the workplace:
How do I tell my co-worker that is always cold to bring a jacket?
My boss often contradicts himself. How do I handle an inconsistent or forgetful boss?
Should I engage in office gossip? And if I don’t, how can I avoid it without appearing anti-social?
All good questions that can be answered with one simple solution:
This is a personal commitment to communicating with transparency and honesty. THIS IS HUGE! We all like to believe we are always honest, but when you add transparency to honesty, it takes it all to a new level.
Now let me “clarify my meaning” transparency DOES NOT mean you have license to blurt out all of those inside thoughts (not everyone can be Chelsea Handler). It DOES MEAN you commit to communicating with honesty and integrity and doing it as effectively and appropriately as you can ALL OF THE TIME.
Why would you do this?
- Increase your credibility
- Gain trust and respect
- Make better decisions
- Build stronger relationships
- Lead productive teams
And let me be even clearer, this is not an easy commitment to make. There are a lot of reasons, and good reasons, that leaders are not transparent.
Reason #1: Quite simply it’s easier to not be. Transparency requires us to be uncomfortable and deal with conflict head on. Most of us would rather avoid conflict, but leaders don’t have that luxury.
Reason #2: Quite simply, it’s hard to do. Being transparent requires humility and intention, and a willingness to put yourself last and others first.
So what does this look like in the real world?
SCENARIO #1: When you have a co-worker that perhaps is annoying or has a need that no one else in the office has, you have a few choices?
You could: Ignore it OR Gossip about it and risk relationships. Remember gossiping says more about you than the person you are talking about.
You should: Share your frustration with respect and seek to find a solution.
SCENARIO #2: When you have a boss who may be inconsistent or forgetful?
You could: Ignore it OR Gossip about it and risk YOUR relationship with your boss.
You should: Be curious? Ask questions and get more information.
Who knows why people are inconsistent. Perhaps they have thought about it more and reconsidered, or maybe they had a meeting you didn’t know about, or perhaps they just plain forgot.
Either way, your goal is to get the job done while maintaining healthy and effective relationships with your supervisors and colleagues. This requires a commitment to transparency before you get frustrated and judgmental ask questions.
SCENARIO #3: And when folks are gossiping…you really only have two choices.
You could: Ignore it OR gossip about it and risk relationships.
This one is a no-brainer.
You should: IGNORE IT. Leaders who are committed to being honest and transparent don’t gossip.
Office gossip is poison. It inflects teams and organizations and eventually leads to death. It kills relationships and can murder YOUR own credibility. You have worked hard to establish yourself and get to where you are; don’t lose it over something that simply is unnecessary.
Ignore it. Don’t engage. And if you are, in fact, their supervisor than you are responsible for ensuring others don’t gossip and re-directing their behavior if they are.
One of the most relevant and useful concepts and tools I learned years ago was “triangulation”; it’s a simple communication equation that makes it so much easier to be a transparent leader.
Triangulation is a common, yet dangerous, communication habit that must be broken. It requires at least 3 players; Persons A, B, and C.
Here’s what happens: Person A has a conflict, issue, or concern (small or large) with Person B. Then Person A talks to Person C about the problem. Not Person B. And Person C usually then talks to Person B or even D and so on. This begins an unhealthy cycle of communication that creates more conflict and almost never results in a resolution.
Leaders committed to being transparent go directly to Person B to resolve the conflict and don’t involve others. So don’t triangulate. Go directly to Person B and bypass Person C. And encourage your team to do the same.*
*Note: If you need to seek counsel, do it with a trusted friend, mentor, or coach who is preferably external to the organization.
When you commit to being transparent and avoiding triangulation will empower you as a leader and help you establish the credibility you are seeking and trust and respect you want in others.
It equips you with the tools you need to make decisions, resolve conflicts, and build a team that is cohesive and productive.
You will be a more effective leader.