Leadership is all about authenticity and ownership. Many good men and women in leadership positions fear conflict so much they choose not to engage vital communication opportunities. The information to be conveyed might be that you did not receive the raise, that there will be no Christmas bonus this year, that layoffs are likely in the near future, or any other manner of difficult to deliver information. However, research – and common sense – tell us that when you give a person or group a bit of information that is largely negative or non-affirming, if you are authentic and own the information they will not only process the information more deeply, but they will respect you more as well.
To be authentic means to be honest who you are. To make sure what you say and show (those all important nonverbal cues) is congruent with what you actually think and feel about the issue. In essence, the inner and outer voices need to be aligned. Many leaders erroneously believe that leadership is all about projecting strength. They are wrong. If you don’t let out the inner you – including a little bit of your doubts and fears and imperfections – you will not reach your leadership potential. Your team might revere you, but they won’t feel that you’re a part of the group – you’re simply “the boss.”
To own the information means you use “I” statements and resist saying “they” or “we.” And don’t ever say that “corporate” made the decision. Show them you are not afraid to own up to your decisions (or at least your part in making the decision). Believe it or not, when you own it, they respect you more, not less. Another awesome benefit is that owning your communication helps you walk away with a lot less guilt. Over time, guess what? This is a skill and you can easily work towards regularly owning what you say with no excessive thinking required.
If you are basically authentic and you own what you say will they love the information you are sharing? Not necessarily, but you will have significantly reduced the likelihood of damaging the relationship and maybe even gained a little respect along the way.