#4 Barrier to Leadership – Beating Around the Bush

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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When I was growing up, I was a very shy person. I was afraid to ask questions, communicate what was on my mind, and most of all, didn’t want to create any waves.

Today, people would say I don’t have any trouble with any of these methods of communication!

Why Did I Change?

Why I am not the quiet, fuzzy communicator I used to be?

It is simple. Those passive tendencies created more problems for me and didn’t serve me well. I was frustrated, others were frustrated, and it took a lot longer to get things done.

It was simple to discover that beating around the bush wasn’t the right way to communicate. But it wasn’t easy changing my ineffective habits.

From Fuzzy to Clear

My immediate plan was to find out why I was holding back. I was unclear and hesitant to speak because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing or offend anyone.

I was concerned about having the right conversation in the right way to ensure people were happy.

Since happy people make productive people, I would not ask the questions that needed to be asked or speak with clarity.

My Old Habit

Fuzzy… Holding Back… To Keep People Productive (NOT!)

My New Habit

Clear – -> Ask questions/Speak Up – -> To Keep People Productive (DEFINITELY!)

Today, many people striving to be more effective leaders have the same problem.

They are too concerned about the end result of a conversation.

“I’m not going to have that conversation because the individual’s performance may decline,” or, “Things will get worse if I bring that to his or her attention.”

In reality, when someone doesn’t say what they need or expect, it doesn’t get better with time.

People receive mixed messages instead of clear messages. No message or a mixed message keeps people from knowing what to do, and it will lead to disappointment and conflict.

What really frightens me is when people avoid communicating expectations. Great companies then lose great people.

The 24-Hour Rule

Think about it. What advantage is there to beating around the bush?

For me, I incorporated the 24-hour rule. I give myself 24 hours to get my thoughts together to expedite a needed conversation.

Any time we wait longer than 24 hours, we become a procrastinator. Additionally, when avoiding conversing longer than 24 hours, the conversation becomes harder, and situations start to go south.

This was a real awakening for me! I thought I was avoiding unhappy people, but I was actually creating them.

This is the definition of self-defeating behavior. The very thing you hope to avoid is what you create.

The Destructive Orbit

Great leaders are continually working on their leadership growth.

When we discover that we have not been as clear as we need to be, now is the time to take action. Before you do, think about how long the situation has been going on.

6 months? 1 year? 2 or more years? Any time we allow people to operate without a clear direction, it doesn’t get better with time.

Now is the time to plan and determine if you can save a situation.

For example, you may have let things go on too long, and there are too many unresolved situations that have created a “bad history.”

In this case, use the 24-hour rule to contact a leadership professional to help you plan and facilitate your conversation so you may effectively participate and achieve the results you expect.

Conversations that should have taken place but did not materialize have created a bad deal – what I call a destructive orbit.

You know, situations get better, then ugly, then a little better, then back to ugly. The ongoing back and forth that occurs in human behavior keeps people frustrated and unproductive.

Most successful organizations have 5 – 6 destructive orbits that currently exist. Yes, you read that correctly.

Ongoing, destructive orbits that resulted from leaders not being clear from the get-go. These orbits cost the organization in a big way. Act now to eliminate the unnecessary, wasted resources that keep you and others from being the best.

Smile – It Feels So Good

Tackling tough conversations, no matter how large or small, is invigorating.

What you think will be an uncomfortable experience will be one of your best leadership experiences.

What you dread to act upon will result in people working together or not being a match for your organization. Either way, the results are a win/win for you, others, and the organization.

After reading this article, make a decision to follow through on needed conversations. Congrats! You have gone from:

  • fuzzy to clear
  • timid to candid
  • beating around the bush to telling it like it is
  • creating destructive orbits to NO orbits

What conversations do you need to have?

How Do You Deal With this Barrier to Leadership?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Would you like to contribute a post?

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Tim Cummuta says:

    Dr. Whitaker, in my case I had always been too flamboyant and outgoing. Much of what I had to say did cause problems. So as I grew I became quieter. As the old axiom goes, “Better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” However, that soon became a problem also. I started to see important issues not getting addressed. I had to step back into the fray, a little slower, but get involved just the same. It was surprisingly difficulty to begin to come back. I realized that there is a right time and place to give the opinion needed. Thanks for a great post. I agree with the 24-hour rule. When it needs to be said it should be said quickly.

  • Bill Matthies says:

    Dr. Whitaker’s post and Tim Cummuta’s response highlights the need for balance in our lives.

    The issue is rarely “should we?” but instead “how much?”

    Borrowing from the folks who sell alcohol, “Change Responsibly”.

  • ramlan ahmad says:

    Students in Western countries are much more fortunate as you all are encouraged to speak and communicate from a earlier age (in school). In many other countries education is a one-way street; teacher talks students listen thus Asians especially rarely speak up as their growing environment has not encouraged them to do so. I was similarly like you a shy and introvert person but then sent to USA to do my degree and Masters programme. What a world of difference it has done for my courage to speak and career to-date!

  • Tim, Bill, and Ramian – Thanks so much for adding your comments and excellent points to this discussion. Your input and sharing your real life experiences is very valuable.

  • Ramdeo Choudhary says:

    I do not fully subscribe to the author. Silence and written/oral communication are all important for the communication to be effective and worth drawing attention from all. Practice of silence and introspection gives you a level of understanding and enlightenment which is vital for clarity and effectiveness of your thought. This is true for any business or personal enhancement. We will be a mere talking machine if we are not realised. A leader therefore must have this trait embraced and form his/ her daily routine practice to be able to communicate on complex issues effectively and fearlessly to make an impact.

  • I am not sure if this thread is still active but I will give it a try. I am a shift manager and I am having issues with the manager before me. There are emails from our clients that are straightforward and easy to understand but in her case, she seem to always have questions or she questions issues that we easily understand. I feel that the client was exhausted with her questioning and until the end the former gives up and tells the other manager to “just forget it” and then gives an instruction where in they will handle the issue instead of us. This manager also tends to beat around the bush when she talks to the employees so a 3 minute talk would turn into 30 minutes, which is not productive. I am getting frustrated since there are times my boss thinks I am the one who do not understand. I am almost ready to quit my job because of this.

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