Talk is Cheap? Well, Not for Leaders

A “friend” of mine recently made this comment in the middle of a discussion we were having with him. It got me thinking, “as Managers and Leaders, is talk really cheap? or is it priceless and premium?”

In the Management positions that people hold in the organisations, most can be considered as also requiring the said individuals to provide Leadership. I say this because I am fully aware that Management and Leadership are two different concepts. One of the key things thus that Leaders and by extension effective managers must hold very dear is “talk” aka words. Those we lead in addition to following what we do keenly, what we say to them and the emotional effect that our words have on them cannot be understated.

In my position as a manager, and indeed as a life long student of leadership, I have always held dear that which I tell both those in my team, and those outside of it. Primarily, I pay keen attention to what I say to my team members and as such, talk to me is not cheap, Talk is actually Premium.

In “Talk Is (Not!) Cheap”, Jim McCann illustrates how the art of conversation leadership—the process he developed to engage others and create forward momentum in the workplace—can be used to inspire, innovate, and win. This and other books on the importance of conversational leadership (Using words and constant talk and deep listening) serve to show us the importance of the gift of the gab to leaders.

Ask yourself these three questions: abbreviated as KTN

Is it KIND

Simply put “If you can’t be Kind, be quiet.” I had this printed out and put on my work station for almost the whole of 2017. If there was something that I recognised early in my management and by extension leadership journey is that being able to practice empathic listening and talking is one of the most critical things as I needed to learn.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)/Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a critical skill of Leaders. When we are emotionally intelligent, then one of the things we are able to practice is Empathy. Kindness, and Compassion work together with Empathy to enable leaders not only be able to understand their team, but also inspire and influence them.

” Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” –  Bob Kerrey  

We need to ensure that every word we utter and speak is kind and doesn’t serve to heart or put down those we relate with and in particular those we lead and work with in our teams. Being kind must not be confused with not being firm, in-fact when we are kind, we are able to put across our views in a more objective and by extension firm way as opposed to when we are not kind which only serves to show how inconsiderate and may be even uncouth we are in character.

Is it TRUE

Simply put “Speak the truth and it shall set you free.” Integrity is key if not the greatest virtue of any employee and indeed every leader. After evaluating if what we are about to say is kind, it is critical that we “fact check it” to ensure it is the Truth or that it is true. Remember, something could be true but how we say it may not be Kind, this is why as leaders, we need to ensure that how we say something is just as critical as to what we are saying – content of the message.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Managers (and Leaders) need to ensure that they constantly speak the truth. Truth in itself must not be confused with Fact – this is a debate we will have some other day :), for now, ensure that everything you speak is both kind and true. Be careful not to “stretch the truth” as that serves only to negate being kind and may actually move you towards the realm of lying.

Is It NECESSARY

In my MBA course, one of the cases we looked into (in Management Communications) dealt with how to deal with crisis as an organisation in the age of social media. In this case, we looked at how an organisational leader may need to communicate in a time of crisis choosing carefully what information is necessary to be shared with the public, under-pining how leaders need to carefully and without altering the truth pick the necessary content of their messages. Same applies to leaders and teams, it is important that what we talk about or say to those in our teams is necessary and serves to grow, inspire and motivate or make them better people.

After evaluating if what we want to say is Kind and True, it is important to weigh it on the scale of necessity. Not everything that is Kind and true should be said, and it must not be said to everyone, evaluate the impact and why or if it is necessary at that time or can be deferred.

Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. ― Bernard Meltzer

Bringing it Together

Communication is transfer of meaning. Ensure you transfer the right and correct meaning as a leader. Evaluate what you want to say using KTN among other criteria before you say it. Your “talk” or words as a leader or someone in authority go a long way and have the power to not only impact the direction of the unit or organisation, but also impact forever or a very long time the lives of those you are leading.

Do not be like my friend and kill visions and dreams by just one comment :).

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