Can You Be Brave?

A January article in Gov Exec caught my eye, and I’m still thinking about it. The article claimed, “Almost 70% of U.S. Managers Are Scared to Talk to Their Employees.” Really?  That’s an astounding number.

Drilling down in the article made it clear that many supervisors, in fact 69%, are genuinely uncomfortable talking to their team members, particularly if the conversation is going to involve any constructive feedback for improvement. Yet we know that supervisory communication is the key to virtually every success with employees. Communication is linked to setting expectations, ensuring employees are fully engaged, and providing employees opportunities for growth and development—something that we all crave, as well as holding them accountable for results. We should be selecting and promoting supervisors for their communication skills and their willingness to engage in feedback, no matter how uncomfortable they feel!

The week after this article appeared, I headed to San Diego to attend Extreme Leadership Experience, hosted by Steve Farber.  It was an inspiring leadership conference, where music played a significant role. Two of the keynote speakers spoke of the lessons they learned through their music careers. The first was Jay Jay French who founded and led the band Twisted Sister, most famous for the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  Jay Jay’s talk was incredible as he described business success through his TWISTED vision– Tenacity, Wisdom, Inspiration, Stability, Trust, and Excellence. He’s now an entrepreneur and writer for Inc. Magazine.  Who would have thought we’d turn to Twisted Sister for leadership lessons?

Moving from the twisted to the sublime, the next day we heard from another incredible performer, Sandra Joseph, who was The Phantom of the Opera’s Longest Leading Lady. She told her life story of how she made it from a shy and sensitive kid in small town Michigan to Broadway’s leading lady. She’s just released a new book called 10 Life Lessons from 10 Years on Broadway. And, yes, during her talk she shared a few songs–what a beautiful voice and moving story!! (watch the demo video).

By now you’re humming along to We’re Not Gonna Take It or Phantom of the Opera (depending on whether you favor Rock or Broadway) as well as wondering what any of this has to do with the GovExec article on supervisors afraid to talk to their employees.  Well, one of the Extreme Leadership questions was, “What’s your leadership song?” Thinking about those uncomfortable supervisors, I heard the words of Sara Bareilles singing her 2013 hit song Brave: “Say what you wanna say, And let the words fall out, Honestly I wanna see you be brave.”

So, to all of you supervisors out there, put on your ear buds and crank it—Sara Bareilles, Twisted Sister, or Phantom—and go talk to your team—Honestly, I wanna see you be Brave!