Picture this scenario. You have a relatively new leader on your team. You receive feedback from others that this individual's behavior is damaging relationships.
What are your next steps? How direct are you with the new leader?
We have all worked with personalities* that utilize direct communication differently within conflict situations.
It is important to understand your primary conflict style and be self-aware of how you provide direct feedback within the situation that presents to you as a leader.
The Golden Rule only takes you so far. The receiver of the direct communication may not want to hear the feedback the same way you would. Ultimately your goal as a leader is to have greatest positive impact and most likely behavior changes.
Below are three things I do prior to giving individuals on my team direct feedback.
Conclusion: Start from the end. What is the outcome I am trying to achieve? What would be ideal to occur at the end of the communication? What behavior am I trying to help the team member change? If I cannot state the conclusion in a clear, direct way then the individual will have no chance at understanding what I am trying to communicate.
Context: Understand the big picture. Without jumping to conclusions, take into account personal and professional context around the issue or behavior. Be careful not to hypothesize inaccurately. Go into the conversation with an open mind to ensure you understand the big picture. By understanding the context you can help navigate to a more sustainable and successful outcome. Make sure your direct conclusion is not lost in context within the conversation by restating your conclusion at the end of the meeting as well as any needed action items by the team member and/or you.
Concise: More words are not always better. The shorter and more concise often has more meaning. Body language and questions from the recipient will provide clues if they need more information or greater understanding. Practice by yourself or with someone prior to the communication to lead to crisp, concise messaging.
The greatest lesson in direct communication is the balance of being prepared and providing the feedback timely.
*Adapted from David Johnson’s Conflict Style Animal Comparison, 1981