As managers, many of us do indeed talk straight. We identify problems, decide on solutions, allocate responsibilities, communicate it all to our people with standards and deadlines … but the job doesn’t get done! Managing would be easy if only people would do what they have been told to do. And they have been told. Straight!
We all know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this style of management with managers who storm into our offices to tell us what’s gone wrong and how they want us to fix it. Without discussion or negotiation, we are instructed what to do, how it must be done, and by when. When they have gone, we sit wondering why this is a problem at all, maybe smiling because we have already fixed it, or perhaps already decided that the solution we have been given won’t work.

Where does it go wrong? In Straight Talk training we commonly see people describe a problem, then immediately offer a solution. The more important the issue, and the more convinced we are that we know the solution, the harder we push to persuade, convince and if necessary, bully the other person into agreement. When the other person finally gives in with an “OK, that’s fine”, we take their answer as a sign of commitment.

Submission is not commitment. Today, people expect to be involved in decisions that affect them. They want to think, decide for themselves, and take on responsibility. Next time you face a complex problem, hold back on offering a solution, no matter how certain you are that you have the right and only answer. Ask for the views of others and be prepared to consider views different from your own. Make it safe for people around you to speak up. Take time to listen and consider their information. Then share in the intellectual work of finding a solution, and taking responsibility for putting it in place.

Chances are you will have a better solution. For certain you will have a solution to which others are more committed. Talking straight does not mean that you do all the talking; and it certainly does not mean that you do all the thinking!

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