Tell it like it is
Posted on February 21, 2003
If you want to build teamwork in your organization, forget the sales talk and tell it like it is.
The facts please, just the facts! It takes effort to present our point of view with clear, concise facts. Instead, we often exaggerate our point of view rather than just “telling it like it is.” We doubt that just the facts will spur others into the action we desire.
To nudge people, we insert adjectives into our conversations and writings. Our verbal conversations are high-lighted with words. Words like “always, never, greatest, worst.” Although we have never faced such a difficult market, with teamwork we can meet and exceed this years goals. This is a great opportunity for you.
Stressful conversations are often filled with inappropriate absolutes. To provide greater emotional impact, we sometimes falsify our conversation by assassinating someone’s character. When you are so blunt, what do you think will happen? You are acting immature. You behave so rudely it’s a wonder anyone talks to you.
To avoid confrontation and possible rebuttal, we use vague and general descriptions of events. Your not carrying your share of the load. If you ignore company policy, you are asking for trouble. You never give me a straight answerer.
E-mail communication is informal. Inappropriate embellishments have caused many hurt feelings. This new method of communication is developing its own rules of etiquette. Because written words seldom carry the emotions or nuanceses that the writer intended, they are subject to interpretation. The receiver will interpret the words according to their emotions, not the emotions or intentions of the writer. This new method of communication is fraught with potential discourse.
Whether written or verbal, inappropriate embellishments are road blocks to constructive communication. This type of road block is most often sent with an aggressive emotional message. A more productive way to communicate is to be assertive and “tell it like it is.” Being assertive instead of aggressive takes hard work. It requires being specific instead of vague. When you do not complete your reports, I get irritated because the extra work makes me tired. When you begin speaking before I am finished, I feel thwarted, because we are not making progress on this project. When you are late to work three days in a row, I am annoyed because the morning meeting is disrupted. When you do not answerer my question, I get angry because I cannot complete the weekly report.
These messages begin with a clear description of the action or event. The second part of the messages discloses your feelings. This is important because it helps the other person accept your message. The third part of the message contains the tangible consequences the action has towards you.
“Telling it like it is” is difficult because our logic and emotions must be in sync. We often have difficulty providing a clear description of the action or event. Many small situations are lumped into a single event. Our inclination to be judgmental blurs our descriptions of the actual event that caused the problem. While trying to describe the event, we draw inferences about another person’s motives, attitudes and character. We are frequently wrong. Our efforts should focus on sending a more objective statement rather than a judgment.
We also have difficulty recognizing our primary emotion. We substitute one emotion in place of another. We may substitute anger in place of fear. We may fear loosing our job because projects are not being completed, but express only anger. The third part of the message gives us difficulty because we tend to exaggerate the consequences to add impact. Even less constructive is to not express the consequences. That leaves the other person wondering “what?”
People can handle the facts. Facts do not need to be embellished or diminished. When facts are manipulated, embellished, or conveniently left out, then part of the message we send is one of distrust - “I don’t trust your ability to handle the situation or make the right decision.” You get, what you give. The best way to gain someone’s trust is to give trust by “telling it like it is.” “Telling it like it is” creates long term commitments instead of a short term satisfactions. Those people that strive to be straight forward earn respect.
Tom Grady is a management consultant who specializes in communication, teambuilding, marketing and sales. He teaches communication skills, is a frequent speaker at conventions and business meeting, and coaches people to improve their performance. Before starting his consulting business, Tom spent more than twenty years in industrial sales and marketing with Nalco Chemical Company. During Tom's seminars, people learn how to improve their communication to improve performance. Effective communication is
February, 25 2003
Roger Clarke-Johnson says
Well done; I only wish managers took your words to heart and had the guts and clarity of thought to implement them. I have had ten sales managers in as many years in three different companies. I can think of perhaps one or two who ever Told It Like It Was. Being remote, and not in the same office as the manager, it was much easier for them to either a) micromanage me; b) interact with me briefly, every month or so; or c) forget about me until just before fiscal year end.
Since sales performance is notoriously easy to "measure", the most frequent habit is to do no management while sales are good, and to micromanage and threaten all manner of retribution if sales fall off. How can a salesman Tell It Like It Is when management only wants to hear More, Better Sales? I have tried this before and was later laughed at by my colleagues for being so naive. Who's right?
February, 25 2003
Alexander Litinetsky says
The author is absolutely right. My personal experience shows that successful problem resolving always belongs to a team with extremely informal relationships between its members. Into such team exists an unique psychological atmosphere, everyone can splash out any idea (stupid or brilliant), the team personal triumph is the team achievement and vice versa. Such a team could not be established by order. And they can not function under every-moment-management-by-the-boss. Why such teams arise so rarely and why managers pay so negligible attention to this fact? Do that managers want endeed to reach a solution?