Last weekend, I ate dim sum in San Francisco with my brilliant 23-year-old nephew. He’s less than a year out of Northwestern with a sweet job as a software engineer at a top Internet company. Over barbeque pork buns and shrimp dumplings I asked him to tell me his single biggest challenge of 2012. He was quick to say, “Knowing when to share my opinions and when to shut up.” Ah, yes. In that moment I knew he was kin to me in more ways than one.
Not long ago, I led a workshop for two merging media companies. My job was to find a common language that would glue them together in a meaningful way. I opened the workshop by underscoring the importance of our gathering--noting the latest research--which proves that in the absence of a cohesive culture, mergers can become train wrecks.
The next day, I received a phone call from one of the workshop participants telling me that my use of the phrase “train wreck” was disturbing. A few months later, the new regime let her go. Nonetheless, I learned that my delivery could have been finessed.
This is your career and if the company you are working for or the client that’s hired you is heading for a train wreck, it is your duty to let them know. However, the way you tell them is critical. It’s not what you say, but how you say it that really matters.
When you get in the hot seat and tell your truth, make your idea a real benefit, not a threat. Do your best to deliver your opinion without judgment of yourself or others. But remember to pick your battles carefully, know your audience’s pain and have a solution for it.
Step up to the plate. Grasp the bat of clarity firmly, and calmly set your sights. Before you swing, look inside to make sure your motives are grounded. If your focus is about connecting in a genuine way, then your objective is for the greater good. However, if what you’re advocating involves a hidden agenda to gain power, prestige, or control over others, then you’ll strike out.
Robin Fisher Roffer is a leading brand strategist and reinvention specialist. Founder and CEO of Big Fish Marketing, she is the author of Make A Name For Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs To Create A Personal Brand Strategy For Success, The Fearless Fish Out Of Water: How To Succeed When You’re The Only One Like You, and Reinventing Yourself: 10 Steps To Shifting Your Career Into High Gear. Learn about her Reinvent Yourself! Workshops at http://relevanceinstitute.com/