Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Fundamental #14: Speak Straight
Fundamental #14: SPEAK STRAIGHT. Speak honestly in a way that moves the action forward. Say what you mean, and be willing to ask questions, share ideas, or raise issues that may cause conflict when it’s necessary for team success. At the same time, practice alignment by fully supporting decisions once they’ve been made. Address directly issues with those who are involved or affected.
Speaking straight is another fundamental that once we improve on at the office will also improve all the relationships in our lives.
Colleagues have mentioned to me that speaking straight is a fundamental that is especially challenging in our office because our work requires managing many relationships and sensitivities with other departments, agencies, congregations—each with their own culture. So, for example, if we are meeting with clients or people from outside our staff, we may decide to go slow on speaking straight, or to arrange an opportunity to speak straight with a smaller group. So while our “political” relationships may sometimes delay speaking straight, they should not prevent us from speaking straight.
Learning to speak straight is a journey that requires each of us personally to take a look at the style and assumptions that we bring to our interactions with others.
The heart of this fundamental is really understanding and then living the difference between ideas and people. Having conflict around ideas should be positive. Having ongoing conflict between people often is negative.
Here’s the challenge: when we are in a group trying to solve a problem, can we offer different perspectives and debate them yet stay connected, respectful, and even affectionate with our colleagues?
Why not? What gets in the way? The style and assumptions we bring. We may have been brought up to feel that it’s not polite to disagree. Or we may feel that if someone disagrees with our ideas that means they think we are not as smart as they are—and we may become defensive.
To get better at speaking straight, we must continuously examine these assumptions that come from our upbringing, discuss them, and even laugh about them. Sometimes those assumptions and behaviors are different depending on gender, generation, and cultural background. That will help others do the same, which will make it possible to have productive conflict around ideas without destructive conflict around relationships.
Also, people will never speak straight if they fear they may be punished for it. We have to make it safe for anyone to disagree without being punished even in subtle ways like being mocked or excluded the next decision. If we see people being subtly punished for having debated a different perspective, we need to challenge it.
We need to get better at speaking straight at the Federation. I’ve laid out some thoughts on how we can do this. Please let me know if disagree. I’ll welcome it.
See here for Shep’s comments on all the fundamentals so far.