On several news outlets and social media, there is a video of MillerKnoll CEO, Andrea Owen, addressing employees’ comments about their bonuses being canceled. She stated, “Questions came through about how can we stay motivated if we’re not going to get a bonus.” In her response, she used language that sparked a great debate online. Owens remarked, “Don’t ask about ‘What are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus.’ Get the damn $26 million, spend your time and your effort thinking about the $26 million we need and not thinking about what you’re going to do if you don’t get a bonus, alright?”
Listen, all of us have said the wrong thing for whatever reason. I am not going to cast judgement on this CEO or anyone else for doing something I have been guilty of doing. Maybe I did not do it in the exact same way. Regardless, I don’t judge people because they sin differently than I do. Let’s be real. And, no, I am not excusing bad behavior or communication. I hold myself accountable just like you should do for yourself.
So, put down your stone and listen to me for a few minutes. As a leader, when addressing your team or even the custodian, remember these communication cues:
There is a wrong way to be right
You may be right about what you are saying, but the tone and use of language (verbal and nonverbal) can be destructive to your audience. This happens when the person speaking either has low-self-awareness, is a bad communicator, or simply does not care about people. When you care about the people you serve, your communication reflects it. But this takes skill and lots of practice, and nobody is flawless.
When discussing a hard subject, no matter how well intended you are, it can always be misinterpreted. This is why you must put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about how they would feel. I believe every leader should study hermeneutics to understand the effect of their discourse on their audience. They may discover their style of delivery creates more misunderstanding than clarity.
Be silent, think, and then speak
Silence is golden when saying something will not help make a situation better. Naturally, I am not a conflict avoider, so my immediate response to conflict is not to be silent. But I have learned in my years of communicating in board meetings, leading teams, and conducting business that sometimes silence is best.
I am not suggesting you give anyone the cold treatment or ignore them. But take a pause and be silent and listen. Don’t be silent forever. Take long enough to process the situation and, at the appropriate time, respond with the right words and actions. People will respect what you have to say if you thoughtfully articulate value-centric words.
Ask these three questions before you speak:
Is it necessary?
Do you have to always share your thoughts about a problem? The answer is no. We don’t have to always say the things we are thinking. Before you say anything, ask yourself, “Is it necessary?” Sometimes, our words just add fuel to a fire that will never burn out, even if we just say one good word.
For example, I am sure you have been around an argumentative person who loves to angrily debate their point of view. You can say everything that should be said, but, for them, it’s going to turn into an argument. This person never concedes, even when they know they are wrong. They just love to hear themselves argue. You and I know, when dealing with them, the only way to end it is to not say anything. It’s not necessary to always comment on every issue, especially if you know that it’s not going to get better if you say anything.
Is it helpful?
If what you say cannot help make a person or a situation better, then refrain from speaking. This requires humility. While all of us have a right to express our opinion, it does mean we should automatically share it. I know in today’s world, with social media, it is easy to be the author, publisher, and promoter of your content. But nobody cares about what you say if it does not help them. Period!
Sometimes we forget, before we speak, to consider if our words will add any value. To do this, I think you must understand the problem and needs of a person and then determine if you can help. Although you may be the wrong person to help, you can always find someone to facilitate the help that is needed.
Is it filled with grace?
Grace is the act of showing people favor, even when they don’t deserve it. This is very hard to do. But the point of doing this is to demonstrate a higher standard of moral excellence, to inspire people to be better…especially the jerks in your life. Your grace-filled communication sets the tone for future communications. And it postures others to be better when they engage in dialogue with you.
Communicating in grace also lets people know that, when they make a mistake in their communication, your response will be positive. Extending grace shows you will not automatically condemn people for making mistakes, but, instead, you will respond with patience and respect. Even if people don’t respect you, at least you feel better about how you responded and you can rest, in peace, at night.
Take your cues from me and live a great life. NEXCUE!