Games People Play — Civility and Candor Are Not Mutually Exclusive

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“Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean

And they while away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine”

          –     Lyric from “Games People Play” by Joe South, circa 1969

Intentional communication is a lost art.

As is candor.  As, apparently, is civility.

The time wasted by meetings where people don’t mean what they say and don’t say what they mean is maddening, because our collective skins have become so thin.

Nowhere is it written that candor and civility are mutually exclusive.  If we give people room to be candid, and we seek to understand (thanks, Covey!), there’s little need for all the veiled attempts to say something by saying nothing.  The idea that no one can be wrong or be criticized without suffering personal attack isn’t just a political issue, it’s an office politics issue, and that adversely affects business decision making.

If you think I’m wrong, you ought to be able to say, across the table, perhaps emphatically, “Whoa, Heston, I think you’re wrong.”  And I ought to have to support my position.  The same is true back across the table. And ultimately, we have to decide which way we’re going to go.  I’m a big George S. Patton fan, and Patton said, accurately and famously: “If everyone is thinking alike then someone isn’t thinking.”  When we make better decisions, without winners and losers — wait, that’s a moot point; when we make better decisions, we all win — we learn, we grow and we get better. We become difference makers.

The reason so many management teams fail isn’t as much that people don’t support the decision of the team, it’s that they’re often not sure what it was.  That’s one of the major differences between management and leadership.  Leaders think, leaders take risks, leaders say what they mean and leaders decide.  And, leaders make sure those whom they lead are free to do the same.

Let’s don’t play games.  Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say.  It’s a great way to make a difference.

 

 


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