Do You Want Open and Honest Relationships?

Most leaders would quickly answer that question affirmatively because, at least in the abstract, open and honest relationships with others sounds like a goal most people would consider ideal. Yet open and honest relationships between leaders and group members in most organizations seldom exist. Leaders play the “boss role” and group members play the “subordinate role.”

The captain of the ship is supposed to appear as if everything is under control even though there are storms; the boss is supposed to keep up a front of being cool, calm, and collected. Leaders are to give orders and tell people what they should do, leaders should not share their fears or admit their mistakes. Leaders hide their human-ness.

Employees are supposed to accept orders and take their boss’s advice. They are not to be critical of bosses nor question their judgments. They hide their feelings and cover up their mistakes. Being honest is too dangerous, being assertive too presumptuous.

open honest communication leadershipAn engineer in a large Midwestern chemical company talked to his [Gordon Model] trainer about this:

“Most of our foremen are individuals who by dint of being a little smarter, having more pride in their work, and being more aggressive, have become foremen. What that means to them in their culture is that they now are a boss, in the full sense of the word ‘boss.’ And bosses behave in a certain way—like never asking anybody’s opinion. Bosses tell people, and they’re not concerned about anything but getting production. The culture says this is the way you are to behave, and the whole reason for working so hard to become a foreman is so you can be a boss. Some of them are going to say, ‘I don’t want to share my power.’ “

When leaders stop using their power and try to resolve conflicts with the No-Lose Method, people drop their roles and their masks. With the growing realization on the part of employees that their boss genuinely wants solutions to conflicts that will satisfy their needs, they begin to express those needs openly and honestly. And when employees are convinced that conflicts won’t result in decisions in which they lose, they stop being afraid of confronting the boss with their real feelings. It works the other way, too. Leaders become more open and honest with employees.

Method III introduces into the leader-member relationship a new norm: it is safe to let your hair down and drop your defenses in a conflict situation because eventually a solution will be found that is acceptable to everyone involved.

This means that if you use Method III, you are certain to hear feelings, criticisms, and complaints that are seldom expressed to authoritarian leaders. Are you ready for this? Can you accept hearing how you come across to others? Can you take criticism or having people disagree with your ideas and opinions without defensiveness or retaliation?

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