Talking with versus about others…

“Never find fault with the absent.”

Alexander Pope

This is a great reminder and one than can be a a tough pill to swallow.  At times it seems much easier to talk about people than to talk with them.  It is something that we all do, but a practice that we must guard against if we want to increase our influence.  What are the dangers that this creates as a leader?

First, if you are finding fault with someone, and talking about it with others, then you are tearing down the walls of trust, not building them up.  The person that you are discussing someone else’s faults with can never be sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing when they aren’t present.

Second, putting the focus on the person not the problem distracts from whatever the real issue at hand might be.  If you want to be effective in fixing something, then you have to address it head on.

Third, your example to others be creating this type of environment encourages politics and individual agendas.  It does not enhance teamwork or collaboration.  The most effective leaders set the example that others will emulate.  Do you want your team talking about others behind their backs, or addressing challenges with and for each other?

Ask yourself this one question.  “Would I have this conversation with the person in the room?”  If the answer is no, then why not?  Isn’t that the more pressing challenge to figure out?  Talking about people is easy, and cowardly.  Talking with people can be challenging, but courageous.  Which type of leader do you want to be?

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