This morning, like many others, I started my day by scanning through my email newsletters. I am a loyal follower and big fan of the “Smart Brief on Leadership” newsletter series. Usually I encounter really valuable and helpful insights there.
One of the current issue’s links, “Make sure your company doesn’t have any “talented” people” certainly caught my attention. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and encountered a blog article entitled “Six Ways Leaders Can Fuel Excellence at Anything.” The author, Tony Schwartz, presents six keys for leaders to most effectively inspire and nurture excellence.
Overall I believe there are some excellent thoughts expressed in this article. However, Tony’s first key (bullet point) troubles me. In my opinion it reeks of “old school” management tactics, utilized within a controlling business culture. You know what I mean… the “be good, but not too good to employees because they will slack off” routine.
“Ban words like “talented,” “gifted,” and “special” from your vocabulary. Well meaning as these words may be, they tend to give people credit for something they did nothing to earn, while also suggesting that others don’t have equal potential. Consider replacing these words with ones like “effective,” “determined,” “accomplished,” “skilled,” “persevering,” and “masterful,” all of which give due credit to effort.” — Tony Schwartz
So what is your opinion? Do you believe this crafted approach to communications is appropriate? I’m not comfortable with the message it sends.
Take a moment and consider these questions:
Is it ok to tell someone they are talented or gifted? I think it is.
Will your company be a failure if you tell an employee they are special? A staff member who becomes more engaged as a result of feeling appreciated will positively impact a company’s performance, not detract from it.
If an employee has a special talent or gift, must they always earn their way to appreciation through some actions, or “effort,” or is it acceptable to occasionally appreciate them for who they are? Isn’t it human nature, even for managers, to express appreciation to fellow team members as part of the personal interaction process?
Do people have to work harder to receive praise from their organization? What about if they work smarter, not harder? I believe it’s about business results, not about which road you take to get there.
I am absolutely in favor of giving due credit to team members for their hard work and effort. That is really important! But… Leaders must openly acknowledge and embrace their staff’s talents and positive attributes as well.
Where’s the Transparency?
A strong leader should seek to understand each staff member’s individual value and contribution to the team. Leaders spark positive energy, motivation and individual personal growth, within their work-groups, by frequently sharing open, honest, constructive feedback with everyone regarding their strengths and weaknesses. To replace an openly honest opinion, of a person’s perceived value to an organization, with a carefully crafted statement, designed to drive certain behaviors, is manipulative, and untrustworthy.
Effective Leader or Spin Doctor?
Supposed “Leaders” who are politically correct in everything they say and do, especially with their teams, quickly earn a reputation within the business community, as being self-serving. In fact, they aren’t leaders at all, they are posers.
These spin doctors are more concerned about how their message will be perceived than by what the message is itself. They avoid risk by hiding behind carefully crafted statements, as opposed to being transparent with their opinions and feedback towards other people. That is sad.
Please share your feedback! What do you think is the ideal approach to leading a team to success? What, if anything, in this blog post, makes sense to you? What have I left out? I look forward to your comments!