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Productivity through Brutal Honesty

Let’s be honest about being honest;   we spend a lot of time trying not to offend someone. Whether it’s someone’s political decisions or how they look in those pants, we are constantly side stepping honesty.  

I used to manage a spa, and one of my responsibilities was to relay comments made by customers to employees.   This didn’t always go smoothly. People don’t like negativity, and try to find excuses. It was largely a waste of everyone’s time.

Then I had a moment of clarity during a coaching session that changed my whole outlook on workplace honesty. I brought in an employee to discuss her inability to arrive at work on time. During my normal “song and dance”,  she pulls out her cell phone to text.

I realized that I had lost all credibility with my  employees.

I looked at her and I said (in my mom voice): “ do you need a  minute?”

She put down the phone, I dropped the sugary speech and told her that I needed more from her. I explained that her punctuality, professionalism, and maturity needed to improve or we would have to part ways.

It worked; brutal and respectful honesty worked.

My meetings became far more productive, I was far more respected, and I had one of the most successful locations. Why did it work? I refocused all of my “song and dance” energy on the success of my spa and reduced the amount of time I spent tip-toeing around fragile egos.

I’ve carried that with me to Ignitro. I am not suggesting tearing people apart. I have had “those” bosses; I am suggesting that we refocus energy.

Here are some tips on the how and why:

Treat People Like Adults….

There is scientific proof that we should not baby- talk to babies, it can create speech delays. Let’s apply that logic here, we shouldn’t baby-talk to adults, it can create growth delays. Wrapping people in bubble wrap will not save them from the world and treating them like they can’t handle a little criticism can ruin your ability to help develop a team. We are all adults here and we all deserve to be treated as such.

In my first job,  I worked in a pizza place a few hours a week after school. I started on the line making pizzas. Then I was moved to phones, then to folding pizza boxes, then to standing by the pizza oven popping bubbles in the dough. Eventually my hours were cut and I went looking for a new job. I was upset and angry that I didn’t have any hours.

What was my manager’s mistake? Never at any time was I told that I made bad pizza, couldn’t fold a box, and screwed up orders on the phone. No one really gets paid to pop crust bubbles. My underdeveloped brain didn’t take the hint, nor did the manager tell me that I was not good. So eventually I quit to work elsewhere.

If the manager had told me anything, or tried to coach me, I would have either gotten better or we would have at least saved ourselves time..

If someone is struggling, treat them like an adult. Tell them where they can improve, hold that painful conversation that says “your skill set needs more development.” People can take it, and if they can’t, they need to move on.

Cut to the Chase

If I don’t like and idea, I say so. If I think something can be done better, I say so. I cut out all of the BS when it comes to feedback or opinions. It turns out, people like it. You will spend far less time in meetings and far less time negotiating to something you can simply “live with”. Cut to the chase and you can get back to the drawing board. Your employees and clients are not there to be coddled and protected. They want to do the best things in the best possible way, and honesty is the way to get them there.

Be Constructive

Brutal honesty  as a policy is not a license to tear down your relationships. You certainly wouldn’t want to tell them they suck at their job and they should consider a new career as a dog walker. No offense to dog walkers, they probably love their job. Lots of sunshine and unconditional love from their fuzzy clients has got to be delightful. My point is, there is a place between skirting criticism and downright mean. You can find it.

This takes work on your part. Don’t make snap decisions or open your mouth without thinking. Take time to consider overall performance, see if there are any salvageable aspects, and if not, feel comfortable in telling them to “take another pass” or to “go back to the drawing board.” You wouldn’t eat a burnt steak at a restaurant because you want to spare the cook’s feelings or eat a steak when you really ordered chicken. Be constructive and point your employees or even co-workers in the right direction you will get to your destination so much faster.

I currently work for Ignitro Studios. We design functional, beautiful websites. One of my favorite parts about this job is that brutal honesty is practically a standard operating procedure. In fact, we promise it to our clients. This is good for the client and for us. If a client’s idea is bad, we say so. If design or functionality is bad for user experience, we say so.  We have an obligation to help our clients  and take that very seriously.

Consequently, we are all honest with each other. If an idea isn’t good, it stops at an idea. The team environment is positive and safe. We all know where we stand and that creates a sense of security and allows us to feel more at ease. We have fun and enjoy our work. (It’s okay to be jealous.)

Jealously is unnecessary. This type of team environment is available to any group, and the lead can be taken by you. Take a moment to be brutally honest with yourself, do you find yourself treating your employees or teammates with kid gloves? Do you settle for less than optimal performance or results in favor of avoiding bruised egos? Being brutally honest with your team can open the lines of communication and get things done. Caution, brutal honesty does not apply to: “do I look fat in this?” the answer here will forever be “no.”