Written by: Alan Rodway
We spend a lot of time discussing the importance of (living) values in running a successful organisation. Two of the most important (if not THE most important) are Talk Straight and Care.
What is talk straight? It means communicating a truthful message, without complication, bias or generalisation. There are four elements in that. It really should not be too difficult to do that but personal sensitivity and inability to message on point too often override what should be straight forward. So the first difficulty is for people to talk straight.
The second difficulty is for people to listen straight, meaning hear (only) the message that was delivered… without surrounding it with anything. For example, a message received of ‘you need to meet deadlines’ can be surrounded with ‘you’re always having a go at me’, ‘you don’t care about me’, ‘why don’t you tell others that’, ‘is that what you really meant to say or are you just using it’, etc. By doing this, the message becomes a story of its own and becomes lost in the way it is received, which doesn’t work and will make it more difficult for the deliverer in future.
The third difficulty is to respond straight, meaning stick to the message with an honest response that, if the communication continues, will enable it to stay on point. Sure, disagree or don’t accept the message, but do so with a straight response, not by taking the communication into unrelated areas. Talk straight, listen straight and respond straight works. It is not offensive nor threatening surrounding messaging with add-ons, extrapolation or generalisation is ineffective, time consuming and personally challenging in wrong ways. Respect, courtesy and talk straight are not mutually exclusive; they are aligned.
Care is not only an admirable value but is also the glue that binds and drives teams of people. People will buy into team purpose and behaviours much more readily and powerfully when they know and feel that others genuinely care about them. They will also accept and give straight messages to each other because of the trust in others that comes from the care. Care is not a word to be put up on a wall. It is a set of ongoing behaviours that shows people they are cared for in genuine ways, and that they will be supported and helped. Businesses, in particular, too often pay lip service to caring about their people. Profit before people does not work.
Living these two values is both simple and difficult. So it attracts responses like “That’s easier said than done”. Of course it is easier said than done, just like most things that are worthwhile. Talk straight, listen straight and respond straight, and demonstrate genuine care for other people in the organisation… and experience how much better things can become.