3 Tips to Describe Reality as a Leader


As we say at Fierce, no plan survives its collision with reality. And to make it even more complex, reality is constantly changing. What may be YOUR reality may not be MY reality at all – they could actually be directly competing. We might not even remotely understand each other’s key responsibilities in the business.

Last year, Deloitte published one of its most popular articles in the Global Human Capital Trends, which was the chapter on “the overwhelmed employee”. Deloitte, and many human capital firms, saw this as a sign that the complexity and feeling of overload was hitting organizations even faster and harder than expected.

And hence, there is a massive need for leaders to be able to describe what they think, what they believe, and what they observe in a way that moves the business forward – in a richer and deeper way. Successful leaders are able to describe their reality without laying blame or pointing fingers.

Reflect on the last situation in your workplace that did not go as planned. How do you describe it?

Do your problems have “names” and walk around your workplace? Yes, people may be the issue. And while this is a real issue – hence our confrontation conversation – this isn’t what I’m talking about.

As a leader, accurately describing reality is a true skill. As Susan Scott, Fierce Founder, said, “The person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.” It doesn’t matter what title you have – your peers will recognize you as one.

Here are three tips to describe reality in a way that moves the business forward:

1. Look through the camera lens. When you talk about a situation or solution that is not going as planned, it is important to describe the actions as if viewing through a video camera. Do not lay judgment in your words. For example, “When you spoke to that team member, you raised your voice and leaned forward, I thought you looked antagonistic.” Stay away from words like “disappointed” or “saddened”; they can sound very parental when describing the situation.

2. Tap into your emotional intelligence. Remember that talking about your emotions is disarming. Instead of pointing fingers, go inward and share some reflection points for yourself. Share how you are thinking through your observations and invite different perspectives. The fastest way to lose someone’s trust and loyalty is to snap or act out your emotions in a situation. Stay curious and seek understanding.

3. Come with solutions. After you have thought through your own interpretation of events or meaning, brainstorm solutions and ideas for everyone to weigh in on. Effective leaders do not want to invite the person who is constantly pointing fingers at the problems – that is an easy thing to do. It is much harder to lay out the issue in new and innovative ways while simultaneously providing ideas and considerations. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that very few people do this.

What other “go-to” tips do you have for sharing your perspective and others’?

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