Clear is Kind — What does that mean in the workplace?

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

There’s no denying I’m a huge Brené Brown fanboy. I think her work on shame, vulnerability and courage and the implications to leadership and principles for building better workplaces are extremely needed and valuable in today’s climate.

Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.

No one gets hints, ever! Not only is this one of the best pieces of marriage advice I’ve ever received, it applies ever so aptly to leadership as well. We often don’t set clear expectations because we’re either afraid of micromanaging (cause who wants a micromanagy boss) or we think our team just knows our thoughts. I’m not talking trust here — you’ve got to trust your team; empower them and give them the resources to do their jobs well — but you must be clear on expectations. I’ve seen far too many leaders hint at what they need or want instead of being explicitly clear. No command and control but collaborative clarity — make sure that you’re communicating expectations with immense clarity, rumble on it and make sure it’s the best idea and trust your team.

Paint done. Often times as leaders, we get ourselves into such a hurry and instead of spending the extra 3 minutes to paint done, we assume people have what they need to carry out a task or project. Not only do we need to practice asking this question to those above us in the organization, we need to get better at painting what done looks like to our teams as well.

When I say paint done, here’s what I mean… If I ask a person on my team to help me pull some research on emotional intelligence, that person’s task is equivalent to boiling the ocean. There’re hundreds of thousands of articles written on the topic. If that person says, “what does done look like here — paint the win, tell me what this looks like if I’ve completed the task well?” I then say: oh, I’m looking for some data points to incorporate into an article I’m writing, I need some empirical research done from reliable academic sources on the correlation between the emotional intelligence of entrepreneurial leaders and the profitability of their companies. Much different ask and I’m going to get a much different result in the end — I spent an extra few minutes clarifying and, in the end, likely saved hours of work for my teammate.

Trust your team. I think this should go without say but you’ve GOT to trust your team. If there’s been a breach of trust, address it and figure out how to move forward (whether that means being on the same proverbial bus or not). Hire the right people, mentor, coach and guide them but trust them to do what you’ve hired them to do. Don’t lead with a clenched fist — meaning you hold things so tightly that you micromanage. No effective person wants to be micromanaged. They want to be trusted and empowered to do the work. Cast vision, rumble and debate well, get to the best solution but in the end trust your team. If you’ve painted done well, you’re likely (and hopefully) going to get amazing results.

Have the tough conversations. Be clear on what’s ok and what’s not ok. From time to time people are going to let you down or they’re not going to handle situations or relationships well. Too often we hint (see above) at things being awry or we mistakenly assume people will sense our disappointment, uncomfortably or disapproval. They probably don’t and you avoiding the tough conversation on realigning expectations is helping no one. It’s not helping you — it’s going to fester and lead to further hurt and disappointment. It’s not helping them — they likely don’t know they haven’t missed the mark or if they do, they don’t understand the severity of it.

Be clear. Be kind. It’s uncomfortable and it’s not always easy.

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.” -Brené Brown

Related Posts

Download our Free Guide:

The 3 Stages of Building a High-Performance Team (With Your Current Constraints)

Knowing when and how to grow your team can be a challenge. This guide walks you through the process we use when helping our clients navigate how and when to hire.


Next Steps: Sync an Email Add-On

To get the most out of your form, we suggest that you sync this form with an email add-on. To learn more about your email add-on options, visit the following page ( Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.