Communication Requires Mutual Respect

Posted On: 10/26/2016

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TAGS: Vending Times, Vending Times editorial, vending industry, coin-op, vending machine, coin machine business, office coffee service, vending machine operator, micro markets, Alicia Lavay, president debates

Alicia Lavay, vending, Vending Times

Observing the heated presidential debates has been entertaining, to say the least, not unlike watching a reality television show. I found myself anticipating each exchange to see who would throw the next stone, what kind of stone it would be and how the opponent would retaliate. Before you hear from me again, we all will know who our next president will be. Whoever loses will need to get behind the winner and put grievances aside in the national interest.

I have been pondering the deplorable actions and defamatory remarks leading up to this election. The disgraceful mudslinging got me thinking about some of the qualities that make for effective leadership in government and in business, and about how it's possible to get results, even in a competitive environment.

In today's world, great leaders must be who they say they are. This requires uncommon integrity. Vulnerability and humility often work to the advantage of an authentic leader by creating positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees and media all want to help an authentically decent person to succeed.

At one time, it was possible to keep one's public and private lives (or selves) separate. That separation has been eroding since the 1960s, and social media have just about eliminated it today. Leaders today effectively are transparent, with personal and professional lives merged. There is nowhere to hide any more, and anyone in the public eye who attempts to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff, customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night -- unworried about what you said to whom. As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.

Building trust also helps to make everyone feel comfortable and confident in expressing their opinions without fear of reprisals, even if that opinion differs from that of the boss. Until team members trust one another and understand each other's personalities and individual work styles, wholehearted cooperation in any project is difficult, if not impossible.

Cooperative efforts always run more smoothly when everyone can express an opinion. All the members of a team need to "buy into" the collective effort, and a good team leader knows that taking sensible suggestions into account, and giving credit where it's due, are essential to creating consensus.

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting them shine, encouraging innovative ideas and practicing humility will help you become a more likeable leader.

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in recognizing new opportunities and challenges, and nimble enough to act effectively at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Readiness to learn and willingness to adapt mark a successful leader.

And finally, if I've learned anything from watching our presidential candidates duke it out, it is to always follow the Golden Rule -- that is, to treat others as you'd like to be treated. By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company's likeability and motivates others to work with you.

I realize that much of this is textbook, and you've likely heard it or read it somewhere else before. Why, then, is it that so many businesses, our present government included, do a poor job communicating and generating trust? I have seen open conflict between individuals and departments in too many organizations. Imagine working for a company in which factions do their best to sabotage each other's efforts. Does this sound familiar? How long can a business (or a government, for that matter) stay viable when people refuse to be authentic and are known to be untrustworthy?

Of course, difference of opinion and the freedom to dissent are fundamental to democracy. Since the days of ancient Greece, it has been known that presenting a variety of ideas to a group and engaging in challenging discussion can help strengthen an organization, because it admits new ideas and refines existing ones by subjecting them to criticism. But where is the line to be drawn between healthy debate, heated argument and vicious personal attacks?

The key, I think, is always to differentiate between the person and the idea. You can point out the flaws in a proposed course of action without accusing the proponent of being either stupid or evil. And a climate in which everyone is heard -- and knows it -- is the key to an environment in which mutual confidence contributes to collective success.