Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.

If you’re familiar with today’s subject line, you may have heard it in a 12-step recovery room, or more likely from your learning and study of leadership.

Never Forget … YOU ARE A LEADER.

It’s not new. However, famous author, speaker, and research professor, Brene Brown has made it pretty popular in the leadership space.

This all began in 2011, with what made Brene famous … Her TEDx Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”.

Below is an article from her website which is suited just right for you … A Leader in Your Business & Home.

Let me know what you think.

Plus, in the PS I’ve put a link to a free resource from her website.

Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind. By Brene Brown

We started our interviews with senior leaders with one question:

What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?

There was one answer across the interviews: We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.

To better understand, we followed up by asking, Why courage? and What’s getting in the way of building more daring cultures?

Of the 10 behaviors and cultural issues which leaders identified as barriers to courage, there was one issue that leaders ranked as the greatest concern:

Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.

Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of “nice and polite” that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations.

Whatever the reason, there was saturation across the data that the consequences of avoiding tough conversations or tapping out of a difficult rumble as soon as it gets uncomfortable include:

  1. Diminishing trust and engagement;
  2. Increases in problematic behavior, including passive-aggressive behavior, talking behind people’s backs, pervasive backchannel communication (or “the meeting after the meeting”), gossip, and the “dirty yes” (when I say yes to your face and then go behind your back); and
  3. Decreasing performance due to a lack of clarity and shared purpose.

Over the past several years, my team and I have learned something about clarity and the importance of hard conversations that has changed everything from the way we talk to each other to the way we negotiate with external partners.

It’s simple but transformative: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

I first heard this saying two decades ago in a 12-step meeting, but I was on slogan overload at the time. I didn’t even think about it again until I saw the data about how most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves we’re being kind when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair.

Feeding people half-truths or BS to make them feel better (which is almost always about making ourselves feel more comfortable) is unkind.

Not getting clear with a colleague about your expectations because it feels too hard yet holding them accountable or blaming them for not delivering is unkind.

Talking about people rather than to them is unkind.

This lesson has so wildly transformed my life that we live by it at home. If Ellen is trying to figure out how to handle a college roommate issue or Charlie needs to talk to a friend about something . . . Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

When we have to show up for a hard conversation we call it “a rumble.”

For us, this is more than just a weird West Side Story way to say, “Let’s have a real conversation, even if it’s tough.”

It’s become a serious intention and a behavioral cue or reminder.

A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, and to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving. To take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.

More than anything else, when someone says, “Let’s rumble,” it cues me to show up with an open heart and mind. So, we can serve the work and each other, not our egos.

Armoring up and protecting our egos rarely leads to productive, kind, and respectful conversations.

More resources from Brene can be found at her site on Daring Leadership Assessment or download free companion workbooks, go here.