For most people, “telling things as it is” or being direct is a hard thing. That’s why there’s so much politicking and disingenuous behavior in large corporations. Our needs to be popular and to be liked are very powerful and make it very difficult to be direct.
However, when building teams and organizations, building cultures of candor where people feel comfortable with directness is critical to survival. The amount of politicking and gossiping is inversely proportional to the amount of trust there is. And, if ever the word “Team” was an anagram for something, I’m pretty sure T would stand for trust.
I’ve worked hard over the years to make it a habit to tell it as it is and have those conversations – especially when building my own teams. I expected them to get easier over time. They did – just not in the way I imagined.
Now, I feel it has become easier for me to discern if a difficult conversation is necessary. It has also become easier for me to identify situations where it is vital to be communicative even if it isn’t pleasant. But, it hasn’t necessarily gotten any easier to have those conversations and deliver the message. This is because the need to be liked is hard wired in all of us. Over time, I’ve learnt that that need is regularly counter productive and that rising above it is both necessary and important. It doesn’t get any easier though.
Ben Horowitz was right in calling his book “The Hard Things about Hard Things.” Most of the stuff that goes into building a great team or a good life isn’t rocket science. However, doing them and then doing them consistently is bloody hard.