A lot of times, the compunction to “be nice” gets in the way of being truthful. Has that ever happened to you? Many of my clients have a belief that to be trusted, they need to be liked. And to be liked, they need to “be nice.” And that being nice means agreeing with everyone and everything. Sounds exhausting. And squishy. And not so executive.
Early in your career, behaviors that you were rewarded for might include:
- Saying “yes” no matter what
- Being a “worker bee”
- Agreeing with people, even when you didn’t actually agree with them
- Not disagreeing with people, even when you disagreed wildly with them
- Being likeable, pleasant to be around, and easy to work with
These things are important, but they are not the whole enchilada by the time you reach mid-career.
Chances are, if you are taking this course, you are at a stage in your career where you have been hired for a job, invited to a meeting, or made part of an initative because people want your perspective, judgment, and creativity. In other words, you have a seat at the table because people want the benefit of your experience, contextual savvy, and institutional knowledge.
You aren’t invited to be a warm body, always at the ready with the reflexive, “Sure!” Contributors at your level need to let go of the idea that being agreeable is everything. Of course, being likeable, pleasant to be around, and easy to work with are still really great things (so we’re not talking about a wholesale departure from workplace congeniality here!). But don’t let your desire to charm overwhelm your ability to contribute, either.
Instead, be a truth-teller. Bring your experience forward to:
- Point out what you notice
- Give honest opinions and perspectives about what you observe
- Avoid diluting the truth (while sharing responsibly)
- Follow the “no surprises” rule — keep people informed and don’t shield them from the bad news
- Steer clear of being that guy who never has red on his scorecard – let your data be meaningful and full of insights
- And, always, be for-the-business
- If you aren’t a truth-teller, people might stop asking for your opinion.
Consider whether or not you are practicing integrity and earning trust by acting as a truth-teller. If you are already engaging in the behaviors described, consider whether there is any room for improvement that could up your game.
“Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”