By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
When I wear a tie, which is quite often, I like to wear a tie with a little pizazz. Not too much pizazz, just a little. I definitely try to avoid boring ties. Finding a tie with a little pizazz versus too much pizazz can be like walking a tight rope! Too much pizazz can bring forth sarcastic comments from my colleagues. There’s nothing like a “nice tie” complement dripping with sarcasm. Men seem to enjoy jabbing each other with sarcasm much more than women. Regardless, sarcastic comments, no matter the intent, serve no other purpose than to put others down, hurt them, or assert superiority. And that’s a problem!
Too many leaders make destructive comments without even thinking. The problem is, the other person clearly remembers what they said. They remember every detail. Marshall Goldsmith’s research found that while the person making a destructive comment can’t even remember making it, the other person can recall every detail. Leaders may not think they make destructive comments, but the people who know us disagree.
Every leader makes destructive comments whether they realize it or not. The good news is, it’s only a problem 15% of the time. But that’s a problem. Why? Words, like bullets shot from a gun, once spoken, can never be taken back. The damage is done. It doesn’t matter how much you apologize.
Destructive comments are an easy habit to fall into, starting in jest and unintentionally escalating. Leaders who pride themselves on their candor can masquerade destructive comments behind truth. Leaders permit themselves to make destructive comments under the excuse that their comments are true. In this case, truth is irrelevant. Leaders need to ask themselves, is what I am going to say “worth it” instead of “is it true.”
If you would like to avoid making destructive comments, Marshall Goldsmith recommends asking yourself these questions:
- Will this comment help our customers?
- Will this comment help our company?
- Will this comment help the person I am talking to?
- Will this comment help the person I am talking about?
Effective leaders know that if the answer is no, don’t say it.
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