Your Only Job: Be Kind. Be Present. Be Clear.

user Andrew Blum
calendar

As a management consultant, I get asked for advice all the time on a wide range of topics: How can I best lead a high stakes meeting? How do I handle a difficult conversation? How do I more effectively manage a strategic transition at our company? (Note: These are smart people asking smart questions.) Occasionally the subject will veer into personal territory, with many asking questions about how to deal with their children, partner or friends differently. More and more I’ve been giving everyone the same advice. Because in truth, there is only ONE answer: Be Kind. Be Present. Be Clear. Your job – always, forever, and in every situation is simply to be kind, present, and clear.

Are you paying attention? Because this insight has only revealed itself after twenty years in this business of paying close attention to the habits of extraordinary leaders, multiple hours spent in rigorous self-examination, and countless workshops on personal and leadership effectiveness. My discovery is that when I was kind, present, and clear, I took pride in how I did my job – regardless of the outcome. And the leaders I’ve worked with who are kind, present, and clear always have the best outcomes in the long run.

This is easier to say, and harder to do, so let me offer some thoughts on how

How to be Kind

This should be the easiest to accomplish – but it’s important to remember that kindness is a two-way street. It’s not enough to only express compassion for others; you must also practice it with yourself. In a given situation, slow down to notice where you are feeling anxiety and how unkind or even violent your internal dialogue is with you. Until this internal dialogue is full of forgiveness, it will be impossible to treat others kindly. When we make this shift to become kind with ourselves, we become that much more likely to treat everyone else (colleagues, competitors, friends, and even the guy who cuts us off on the road) more gently, respectfully, and with a sense of decency. A good rule to help you be kind with others is to presume innocence. While people do all manner of things that they could be criticized for, they rarely act with malice or negative intent, but rather out of unconsciousness.

How to be Present

This one may be a little harder to implement, if only because we are loaded up – and weighed down – with so many distractions. From cell phones to news to hours on Zoom, there is no shortage of obstacles standing between us and our ability to remain truly mindful and connected in each and every moment. For me, being present means being 100% invested in, and available for, what is actually happening right now, not what you’re afraid might happen tomorrow, or reacting to what happened yesterday. The key to staying present is to use all of your five senses with absolute intent, in the moment. When your brain is occupied by taking in all of the data available through the senses, it is less likely to drift into negative or fear-based future and past wanderings that distract from the moment. Perhaps most importantly, through that kind of fierce presence, you actually have access to all of the data that’s available at any given moment and are therefore more likely to have high-quality insights and make high-quality decisions.

How to be Clear

Clarity is the most important element of business leadership, and perhaps also the most challenging to achieve. Being clear means being truthful, concise, and communicating exactly what you believe – with specificity and openness. One reason being clear can be hard for senior executives is that we are often hedging on multiple dimensions at the same time and are unclear about exactly what we want to say and exactly what we want people to do or understand. Sometimes we think clarity will hurt or scare people. But of course, we only cause greater pain when we hesitate or try and cushion the projected blow by giving soft, muddy instructions. On the flip side, when presented with an unclear task, the people we lead may attempt to figure it out as they go along rather than admit they don’t fully grasp the assignment. The result? Lack of clarity causes a chain of pain in an organization from top to bottom. When we respect people enough to be clear with them – whether assigning a difficult task or offering critical feedback – we’re not only giving them a better chance to succeed, we’re also demonstrating our faith and confidence that they can handle the task or feedback at hand. And what do you think happens to an employee’s job performance when they feel their leaders trust them enough to tell them the truth?

In my experience, the three ingredients above are equally necessary for doing your job well. Just as sugar, flour, and eggs do not make a cake on their own, so kindness, presence, and clarity must be blended and baked together to experience maximum flavor… and benefit. Being kind alone may lead to a nice dialogue, but not one that inspires action. Likewise, being clear without kindness can feel harsh and disruptive.

I have also found that there is a natural flow and symbiosis between the three ingredients. When we treat people kindly, we know intuitively that it is more compassionate to remain present for them (and with them); and sure enough, without needing to force it or think about it, the natural outcome of being kind and present with others is clarity.

‘Kind, Present, and Clear’ isn’t just a tool or a method; it’s a mantra to live by – with your employees, your boss, your kids, or with yourself. That’s why being kind, present, and clear will always be your only job.

Back to TriumIQ

Let’s Talk

Contact Us

Trium IQ

Fire Yourself

Intel is best known for its microprocessor. With the introduction in the 1990s of the Pentium chip…

Read

VIDEO | The Architecture of Performance

Leaders are paid to drive results, however, the actions we take don’t always drive the results we…

Watch

Moments of Knowing

There are moments in time during which one experiences a deep sense of certainty that cannot be…

Read

Our Recipe for a Successful Strategic Leadership Offsite

Taking time to pause and bring your team together is important and it’s also a huge investment…

Read

VIDEO Case Study on UiPath | Leadership through Rapid Growth

We recently completed a 6-month leadership development program with UiPath as they prepared to go public. Learn…

Watch

Playing Big

What is it about our willingness to stay small? Have you noticed it? In yourself? In your…

Read

The Case for Congruent Leadership

Extraordinary leaders regularly ask one very powerful question, “What am I doing or not doing that is…

Read

3 Ways Leaders Can Make Difficult Conversations Feel Easier

Leaders are expected to act as the guiding lights and role models for everyone else. And every leader, no…

Read

The Gift of ADHD: How My Son Taught Me To Be a Better Leader and Coach

I have a 15-year-old son who is a wonderful, intelligent, sensitive being who, in many ways, is…

Read

How to win in a post-pandemic future

Now that we are turning our collective gaze away from the immediate global crisis, it’s time to…

Read

The Paradox of Leadership

At its core, leadership is about the ability to leverage paradox. There are five polarities that are…

Read

“Maturity begins when one lives for others” – Hermann Hesse

Reflections on my new role as Founder and Chairman of The Trium Group I founded Trium in 1998 inspired…

Read

How to Effectively Leverage Executive Coaching: 3 Steps to Hiring a Coach

I lead the executive coaching practice at The Trium Group, where we serve senior leaders and their…

Read

How to Make Your Post-pandemic Leadership Offsite a Huge Success

With vaccination rates climbing, many companies are now considering how they’ll get their leadership teams working together…

Read

What Good Leaders Do When Replacing Bad Leaders

Those who are replacing poor or controversial leaders have a special challenge. Every leader who fills a…

Read

Catching Up with Reality

One of the great challenges that all human beings face is aligning their behavior with reality. This has…

Read