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Coming Out of Any Closet

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 02, 2014 9:30 AM

truth

I just saw a very inspiring Ted Talk. In it, the woman talks about her experience coming out of the closet and relates it to other hard conversations. She believes, and I agree, that we all share that common experience of finding it hard to tell someone something personal about ourselves, whether it’s that you’re gay, you just declared bankruptcy, or you just got fired. The common factor is we’re human and we’re afraid.

I recently saw this with a hard conversation I had with someone who was working with me. This person was a good person, good at what they did, but not in the right position in my organization. It was hard to tell this person that their role wasn’t working and we needed to rethink things.

Why was it hard? I admit that one of my flaws is “being nice” and that certainly got in the way. Actually this is incorrect. I am not really being nice. I was avoiding the difficult conversation. I was avoiding the truth, avoiding upsetting someone, and avoiding being a leader. Because leaders can’t be “nice”.

It’s not nice to let someone do a job that is not right for them without giving them feedback and either trying to find something that does work for them or let them find another position which is a fit.

It is not nice to say yes to something because you think that saying no will upset someone, especially when this is affecting the overall health of your organization.

It’s not nice to avoid the truth when lies kill trust in you, your company and your culture.

So I met with the person. I was clear about what I needed to communicate. I was authentic in saying what was working and what was not working. I listened really hard and was ready to be wrong about my decision. 

In the end the conversation went well. The other person already realized that things were not working and was ready to move to something that was more aligned with their career vision. It was an honest, powerful and healing conversation.

So if you need to have a conversation you are avoiding, be brave. Don’t be nice; be honest, open and authentic. That is what leaders do.

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