Candor is Like a Screwdriver With a Twist

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

According to Gallup, Inc., do you know the number one leadership behavior that affects morale and productivity the most? It’s not attitude. It’s not collaboration. It’s a lack of feedback. Providing candid feedback is an art, not a science. It takes some degree of finesse…but also common sense.

Candor is like a screwdriver—an incredibly useful tool that often involves a twist. When used in the right manner, it can help you construct and deconstruct any number of objects. But to get the benefits, you have to use it correctly. If you try to use a Phillips head screwdriver on one of those screws that looks like a star, it won’t fit.

Similarly, if you demonstrate 100 percent honesty without a common sense filter, the conversation or feedback you are offering is not going to be received very well. Instead of blatant or brazen honesty, slightly rotate your approach and apply candor as a form of sincere expression. In other words, do your best to say the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, and in the right way.

In any given work week, there is at least one conversation you’d rather not have; one conversation that you know won’t go well due to your or the other person’s emotions coming unglued; or one conversation that can overshadow the whole day, week or workplace because of the impact it could have with ongoing relationships. Why not dodge these uncomfortable conversations altogether?  What would be the benefit of learning to deal with these situations candidly?

First and foremost, those who engage in open and sincere dialogue, free from reservation or holding back what needs to be said—report higher levels of job satisfaction, confidence and performance results. By communicating clearly and openly about what’s on your mind, you can be more effective and productive versus spending countless hours and energy on worrying about what may happen next.

In an upcoming breakout session at the SHRM National Convention on Monday, 6/24/19 in Las Vegas, I will be sharing the six steps to achieving breakthrough relationships by maximizing candor and minimizing defensiveness by engaging in “Candid Conversations that Drive Results.” Here are six transformational steps, which if followed, will help you to transform your relationships, too. Each step is simple, but not necessarily easy.

  1. Clearly identify purpose before engaging. Ask yourself these three questions:
    • Why am I going to discuss this issue?
    • What do I hope to accomplish?
    • What would the ideal outcome be?
  2. Consider timing and location.
    • Address the matter as soon as possible, but timing is critical.
    • Determine the location for the discussion; remember that privacy is important.
    • Discuss the issue face-to-face and one-on-one; avoid addressing it via email.
  3. Start with a statement that invites dialogue.
    • Be sure to open with an opening statement that is cognizant of body language, sound of voice and the actual words you use.
  4. Share facts, story, then emotions.
    • See the facts.
    • Alter your story (interpretation of the facts)
    • Experience a different emotion.                                  
    • Change your behavior.                               
    • Achieve a more positive outcome.
  5. Encourage other person to share perspective by…
    • Ask for the other person’s input.
    • Listen versus waiting for a pause to talk.
    • Try to understand other person’s perspective, rather than focusing on driving your point.
  6. Keep your emotions in control.
    • Prior to the conversation:
      1. PREPARE! Think through how it may go and how you’ve reacted in the past.
      2. Proactively access why someone would react this way and how you can best handle it.
      3. Consider your conflict triggers and guard against them.
    • During the conversation:
      1. Let other person speak; do not interrupt.
      2. Consciously lower your voice.
      3. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings; demonstrate empathy.
      4. Ask how s/he would like to see issue handled and/or offer options.
      5. If your emotions are elevating, state you need some time to continue the conversation.
      6. Express regret or apologize, if appropriate.

At the end of the day, candor is a tool. And just like any tool, it can be used to create or destroy. You need to be aware of its potential dangers to mitigate them. Candor carries some risk, but if you apply common sense when using it, you will likely build your relationships stronger than ever before.

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