Leaders are willing to be uncomfortable.

I’ll describe a leadership challenge I experienced. It may sound familiar.I’d just accepted a new leadership position leading people, many were my friends, most had more experience than me.

Part of on-boarding and getting up-to-speed required me to review all of their files. In the record of a friend, I noticed a discrepancy between two critical dates. I asked him about it. He gave me conflicting answers.

I wondered, “Do I let it go?” That sure would be easier. “Maybe it’s just a data mistake?” I didn’t want to confront him.

I sought clarification from people who were there. They’d know if it was a data error or something else. They said, “I don’t remember.” It was a small group. Not remembering didn’t add up.

There was a lump in the pit of my stomach. I had a feeling a friend wasn’t being truthful with me. I could feel the pressure building inside of me – fear, anger, and resentment. I was ready to explode.

I was in the middle of a leadership challenge. If I let it go, I’d suffer from my choice to do that. If I confronted him, I’d be in conflict. I wanted to explode. I might say things I’d regret later. I value this relationship.

I wanted to act concurrently with my values of honesty and accountability. And to confront him without damaging our relationship?

I asked him again, “Did you miss the deadline?” This time he gave me a clear, answer. He’d missed the deadline. He was angry, hurt, and embarrassed. I was disappointed, angry, and felt betrayed.

I’d maintained my integrity. Now, it was time to keep the relationship.

Leaders maintain the relationship by:

  1. Using clear, concise, and direct communication.
  2. Holding space.

Clear, Concise, and Direct Communication

When conflict and hurt arises, old wounds can be triggered. Communication can break down and become unclear. We can lash out with judgments, accusations, and hurtful assumptions.

I’m guessing you may have been involved in situations that went that way.

As a leader seeking to maintain the relationship, using fewer words with clear meaning, not assuming to know others motives and intent, and asking for clarification can lead away from conflict towards conversation.

Not just for difficult conversations.

I’m challenged to think of many interactions that won’t benefit from clear, concise, and direct communication. Communicating in this way empowers us to:

Build trust.

  • Make clear agreements.
  • Set SMART goals.
  • Hold myself accountable.
  • Tell hard truths and avoid unhelpful lies.
  • Be powerful.

Clear, concise, and direct communication isn’t about being cold and unfeeling. When it’s combined with holding space – being present, open, and allowing, it creates a powerful space where you and others can grow.

Holding Space Involves:

  • Being present with compassion.
  • Listening to understand.
  • Assuming positive intent.
  • Being with what is – don’t try to argue, change them, or fix anything.
  • Allowing the other person to feel their emotions.
  • Breathing to avoid fight or flight.
  • Being grounded.
  • Avoiding judgment.

I wasn’t perfect in all I said the day I confronted him. You won’t be either. But by being clear, concise, and direct while holding space I was able to preserve both our relationship and my integrity.

This is just one example of being uncomfortable as a leader. There are many, many more. The tools of clear, concise, and direct communication and holding space are portable.

Carry them with you wherever you go.

Go Answer the Call