Management Skills: Be Candid

Has your boss ever tried to hide criticism in a compliment? “You’re doing great, but…” What about the old positive feedback, negative feedback, positive feedback sandwich? “Hey, Mark. Great job with the Morgan account. Next time, could you pay a little more attention to formatting? But again, you did a good job.” Why can’t bosses just give it to employees straight?

Legendary CEO Jack Welch discussed the lack of candor in the business world in his 2005 management advice book Winning. Welch says that the lack candor, frankness or straightforwardness is epidemic in corporate America; a problem he calls the “biggest dirty little secret in business.” Welch says we are programmed from childhood to soften bad news. “It doesn’t make any difference if you are in Iceland or Portugal, you don’t insult your mother’s cooking, or call your best friend fat, or tell an elderly aunt you hated her wedding gift,” Welch quips.

Being candid may be against our nature or judgement, but I am forcing myself and my managers to embrace candor for the good of our team members this year. After all, does sugar-coating make accepting bad news easier for direct reports? If I give someone vague feedback about poor performance are they likely to make effective changes to their behavior? Would you respect your manager more or less for using one of the hidden criticism gambits I mentioned at the beginning of this post? The idea may seem counter-intuitive, but candid feedback is actually good for employees.Ditka is the king of straight talk and candor.

Simon Cowel was the best judge ever on American Idol. Whether you love or hate Donald Trump you probably listen when he talks, and you can’t deny his success. Could you imagine hall of fame football coach Mike Ditka telling players to, “Keep up the great work, but next lap maybe you can try to jog a little faster?”

Candor is not about being mean, impolite, or harsh. Candor is about being honest, telling the truth, and being open with employees. I agree with Welch. I think honesty makes managers faster, more respected and more effective, and my managers and I will be embracing candor in 2012.