Diplomatic vs Direct

As a manager, which is better, to be diplomatic or to be direct?

A trick question!

There is no one answer.  The answer is it depends.  It depends on the situation, on the employee and how they like to interact.

As managers, the challenge is to not do what we prefer, but what our employees want.

Some of our employees want us to be diplomatic in our approach.  Some of our employees want us to be direct.

To those of us who prefer to be diplomatic in our approach, it will be very uncomfortable for us to be direct, because we don’t want to appear rude.  But in fact, when you aren’t being direct to someone who wants you to be direct, you are being rude!

Same goes the other way.

For those of us who prefer to be direct in our approach, it will appear very uncomfortable for us to be diplomatic.  But if you remain direct to someone who prefers you being diplomatic, they will shut down.

Two examples of how this could be uncomfortable.

You have a problem.

The diplomatic person would like to talk to the direct person by stating “hello, how’s it going?  I want to thank you for the work you do. Many things are going well.  Now, there is one thing I’d like to talk to you about.”

You’ve already lost this individual!  They want you to get to the point!

What you should say:  “We have a problem.  I see either option A, B, or C as the solution.  Which do you like or do you have one of your own?”

Just get to the point!  Be direct.

The opposite is true as well.

If you like to be direct, and someone who likes someone to diplomatic gives you a report that is all wrong, your tendency would be to say “this is wrong, fix it.”

This could traumatize this person!

What they want to hear:  “I appreciate the work you put into this report.  You spent a lot of time on it.  Now what I need is……”

They will be more accepting to do the next thing.

When we adjust our diplomatic and direct skills with employees based on their preference rather than our comfort level:

  • Listening to each other will improve
  • There will be less conflict
  • You are more likely to get the outcome you desire


There is no guarantee getting out of your comfort zone to match your employees will get you your desired results.  However, your managerial effectiveness is likely to increase when you do adjust your style to let our employee’s desires supersede our comfort.


How efficiently do you run your meetings?

Step back and think.  Would anyone consider the meetings you run a waste of time?

Facilitating meetings is a skill.  Most people don’t take the time to learn those skills.

However, there is a connection between how well meetings are run and the health of the team, department, or groups that attend those meetings.

What does it mean to run meetings efficiently? It means people listen to each other, everyone is heard, and people are held accountable for the actions for which they are responsible.

What is a healthy team, department or group?  It means people listen to each other, everyone is heard, and people are held accountable for the actions for which they are responsible!

A way to increase the likelihood of efficient meetings is to have ground rules established.

Ground rules are procedures that everyone in the meeting agrees to follow.

Examples include:  one person talks at a time, everyone arrives on time, no cell phones, et al.

You also need to get agreement from all participants on what you (or others) can do if someone breaks the ground rules.

When you have ground rules, you’ve set a precedent, a process and accountability for all to follow.  It’s similar to having a process for regular one on one meetings with your employees.

As paradoxical as it sounds, the more processes you have in place, the more freedom it gives everyone to establish an environment where things get accomplished!

When managers facilitate meetings well:

  • It provides an environment for communication and growth
  • It sets standards for being held accountable
  • It starts to set expectations companywide on what to expect from meetings

Running meetings is not just a management skill.  But when managers run effective meetings, it sets a standard for others, especially your employees, to do so as well.

Changing my behavior

If I change my behavior to communicate more effectively with an employee, am I changing who I am?

When you understand the four different behavioral types and know that while we all use all four types, most of us are dominant with one of two behaviors, you know that it’s more effective as a manager to analyze your employee’s behavioral types and change your behavior to match theirs.

When you do this, it’s more likely the employee will hear what you’re saying and the trust between you will increase.

While working on these behavioral skills in one of the management workshops I was teaching, I was asked by an attendee, if I change my behavior, will I be authentic?

This is not an uncommon question or concern.

We don’t want to be phony or come across as not authentic.

Yet as a manager we need to be effective with all types of people, no matter how different they are from us.

How can we do that if we don’t change something about ourselves?

This isn’t about being inauthentic, it’s about being effective as a manager.

What we should remember is all of us use all four behaviors.  It’s just some behaviors are more comfortable and familiar to us.

Some people feel if they aren’t themselves, saying how they really feel, expressing their anger when they’re angry, and their frustration when they’re frustrated, they’re not being authentic.

Actually, they’re being smart!

Haven’t we all said things we regret?  Discretion is sometimes the best option, especially as managers.

When we match our behavior to our employees:

  • We are creating an environment for two way communication
  • Both of you will listen to each other more effectively
  • We are attempting to make sure what we say is what they hear


And you will be authentic in your efforts to be the best manager you can for each of your employees!

Bad Driving Habits

What are you doing unconsciously that limits your managerial effectiveness?

I’m wondering how many of you have experienced this:  you’re driving, talking to someone on the phone (through Bluetooth, hands free!), having a very animated conversation, hang up and wonder how you’ve gotten to where you are!

This happened to me recently.  I was on the highway, heading south, and when I got off the phone I was almost at my destination.  I couldn’t remember the drive on most of the highway I had been driving.

A little scary (for me) when I reflect back, but I also know that things we’ve mastered do become automatic.

We do a lot of things automatically.

This includes how we behave when interacting with others.

Yet how we behave is an essential tool for managers.

Not everyone behaves the same way.  An effective manager changes their behavior to match their employees.  This would increase the likelihood that the employee will understand what you’re trying to communicate.

But when we are automatic with our behavior we will not be matching how our employees behave, unless they are all like you.

This is one of the biggest challenges for managers:   to change a habit, a behavior that has been automatically done without thinking.

It takes creating a new habit of remembering to check your behavior to break the much longer habit we have had to not even think about it.

It’s impossible to do this every day, all day.

But where specifically do you need to improve your communications?  With which particular employee?

This is where you should focus on changing your habit.

  • Have a reminder setup on your computer before a meeting with a particular employee.
  • Have a post it that’s easy to read to remind you to change.

Whatever it takes!


When managers consciously shift their behavior with each employee:

  • What you’re saying has a higher chance of being heard the way you intended
  • The conversation you have will be more two way rather then you doing most of the talking
  • The employee will be more receptive to future conversations

And, in general, it leads to you being a more effective manager!