1. Are you a hedger? Do you hold back and qualify everything? Don’t speak up when you should? Do you not know how to say what needs to be said so you go bland and qualify everything to death? Do you hesitate or slow down when you are sharing something that is difficult for you? Even though it’s not your intention, do people think you are not disclosing what you really know? Practice coming up with two or three clear statements you are prepared to defend. Test them with people you trust. Keep them on the facts and on the problems. Be specific and don’t blame. Don’t qualify or make your statements conditional. Just say it.
2. Overselling? Trying too hard to make the sale? Does your enthusiasm to make the sale or get your point across cause you to commit to too many things in the heat of the transaction? Do you stretch the truth? Do you embellish? The customer you get by unrealistic commitments is the customer you will lose forever when he/she finds out you can’t deliver. Can’t say no to customers? Do you want to help so much that you put yourself in impossible situations? Afraid that people will think you’re not helpful? Being helpful is not helpful when you don’t deliver. If you goof on the time required, go back and tell him/her the problem; either renegotiate or ask what else you should move down his/her list of requests. Don’t promise something unless you can deliver. If you don’t know for sure, say, “I’ll let you know when I do.” Either promise or don’t – don’t say “I’ll try.” If you don’t know, just say so and follow up when you do know. Try to reduce your sales pitches to the actual merits of the case.
3. Loose lips? Some people get into trust issues because they share information others intended to be kept confidential. Be clear on what keeping a confidence means. Some rules are:
- Keep personal information confidential.
- Don’t agree too quickly to keep performance/ethical/legal matters confidential. Warn others up front, “Before you tell me, I can’t promise confidentiality on matters that affect unit performance, ethics or legal matters.”
- Ask up front, “Is this to be kept confidential?”
- If someone is complaining about a coworker’s ethics, tell him/her you can do nothing since you know nothing directly. Have him/her confront the person or produce evidence before continuing the discussion.
- There is usually no guarantee of confidentiality on matters affecting performance, legal and ethical jeopardy.
- There is usually no guarantee of confidentiality on matters affecting personal safety. Even doctors and psychiatrists pass on warnings of harm to authorities even though they obtained the information in confidence.
- It doesn’t take many slip-ups in an organization before people say you can’t be trusted with confidential information.
4. Buying favor? Do people think you disclose information and use your friendships for personal advantage? Being seen as taking advantage of friendships or using information for personal advantage is hard to deal with. There is a fine line between this and the normal way things get done in organizations: friends tell each other things, deals get struck, people access their networks, and sharing information is part of the process. Some rules of thumb so as to not cross the line are:
- Make sure it is a business request for information, not a personal one.
- Make sure it improves performance or efficiency or adds value; any benefit to you is then a by-product.
- Make sure you would tell this or ask this of someone you didn’t know well in your organization.
5. Taking responsibility. Trouble admitting mistakes? Look for others to blame? Do people get blindsided because you don’t warn them? People who excel at dealing with their own mistakes usually do the following:
- Admit the mistake early and inform everyone affected what could occur because of it.
- Publicly acknowledge the mistake if necessary; take personal responsibility.
- Demonstrate what they have learned so the mistake does not happen again.
- Move on; don’t dwell on it.
6. Trying to avoid conflict? Do you say what you need to say to get through the meeting or transaction? Do you say things just to go along and not cause trouble? Do you say what you need to say to avoid disagreement or an argument? All these behaviors will eventually backfire when people find out you said something different in another setting or to another person or they notice that you didn’t actually follow through and do what you said.
7. A loner. Do you keep to yourself? Work alone or try to? Do you hold back information? Do you parcel out information on your schedule? Do you keep everything to yourself? Do people around you know what you’re doing and why? Even though it may not be your intention, could people think you are holding things back? Do they think you are aware of things others would benefit from but you don’t take the time or make the effort to communicate? In most organizations, these things and things like it will get you in trouble. Organizations function on the flow of information. Being on your own and preferring peace and privacy are OK as long as you communicate things to bosses, peers and teammates that they need to know and would feel better if they knew. Make the effort to find out from each group you interact with what it is that they want and need to know and try to comply.
8. Whistleblowing. A tough call. Do you hesitate blowing the whistle? Do you know something others should but when they find out, there will be noise and trouble? Saying what needs to be said to the right person in a timely way takes courage, being direct and straightforward. Everybody sees things, observes things, knows things or learns about things that others should know. Many times it’s not positive information. Something is about to go wrong. Something is being covered up. Someone is holding back an important piece of information. Someone or something is going off in the wrong direction. It’s good news and bad news. If you inform, the organization may gain. But a person or some people may lose. Generally, your best bet is to find the right person and inform.
9. Disorganized. Do you follow up on simple commitments? Do you return phones calls in a timely manner? Do you forward material that you promised? Do you pass on information you promised to get? Do you carry through on tasks you promised someone you would take care of? Failing to do things like this damages relationships. If you don’t follow through well, focus on the receiver. What does this person need to know to implement this change? If you tend to forget, write things down. If you are going to miss a deadline, let people know and give them a second date you will be sure to make. Always out of time? Do you intend to get to things but never have the time? Do you always estimate shorter times to get things done that then take longer? If you run out of time, set up a specific time each day to follow through on commitments. There is a well established science and a set of best practices in time management. There are a number of books you can buy in any business book store, and there are a number of good courses you can attend. Delegating also helps use your time more effectively.
10. Perhaps you really aren’t very trustworthy. You hedge, sabotage others, play for advantage, set up others, don’t intend to follow up. You justify it by saying that things are tough, that you’re just doing your job, getting results. After all, the end justifies the means. You use others to get your agenda accomplished. First, you need to examine whether this view of the world is really right and if that is the way you really want to be. Second, you need to find out if your career with this organization is salvageable. Have you burned too many bridges? The best way to do this is to admit you have regularly betrayed trusts and not followed through on your commitments. Talk with your boss or mentor to see if you can redeem yourself. If yes, meet with everyone you think you’ve alienated and see how they respond. Tell them what you’re going to do differently. Ask them what you should stop doing. Ask them if the situation can be repaired.
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