Posted by: Christine Donovan | January 7, 2010

The Number 4 New Year’s Resolution for Leaders

Continuing from yesterday — “The Number 4 New Year’s Resolution for Leaders”:

4. Learn the art of tempered honesty (or “tactful candor”).  If you’ve ever worked for someone who tended to beat around the bush, the odds are that you didn’t trust him/her very much.  Indirectness is often interpreted as dishonesty, manipulation, or having a hidden agenda.  If you ask people (I have), most will say that they would rather you tell them the truth, “warts and all,” than sugar-coat information that they need to know.

More confusion, misunderstanding and conflict in the workplace arises from people (especially leaders) who will simply not deal with reality and who will not face it head-on, than any other behavior.  If an employee is demonstrating poor performance, TELL him/her that, and at the moment the problem occurred.  If a peer is stepping all over you, TELL them that.  If a manager tends to pontificate in managers’ meetings, making it difficult for others to contribute, TELL them that.

Now, here’s the secret:  People tend not to listen to us if they sense we don’t have their best interests in mind.  If you are basically a critical person, a fault-finder who can find issue with virtually everything that other people do, then I don’t advise your confronting anybody, because you’ll just create more problems for yourself.

But on the other hand, if you give others a generous amount of positive feedback and sincere compliments; if you consistently thank others for their efforts to help and support you; if you give them the sense that you always have their “back,” then you are in a position to give honest, though tactful feedback.  Otherwise, I guarantee you, you will be tuned out.  People can only take so much harping and criticism.  So first build a firm foundation of trust, point out the positive (5 times more than negative, I recommend), then your constructive criticism is much more palatable.

Being direct doesn’t negate the importance of tact and sensitivity… in fact, it makes it more crucial.  Think of a boss you respected and trusted, and I guarantee you that s/he was direct and candid, but always respectful.

So practice the discipline of honesty and candor tempered with respect, caring and empathy, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you become a leader who is respected and trusted.


  1. enjoying the countdown thus far… wondering if there will be anything about health and/or exercise? Seems like it would likely be a priority for leaders?

    guess i’ll have to wait and see 🙂 !!!

    oh, and great blog by the way… a lot of fantastic information!


    • Hey Justin… I’m glad you’re enjoying it! Not to put a damper on any anticipation, but I hadn’t really included anything on health/exercise…although that’s a good idea! Most leaders deal with a lot of stress, and it makes sense that ‘we’ should keep ourselves in shape. (I will check out your blog as well).
      Thanks again for your feedback, and for adding me to your blog roll! Have a great 2010! Christine

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