Candid, Professional Relationships Speak Up, Especially When It’s Hard!

by David Nour

Getting people on a team or in the office to say something on a project or an initiative that questions a relationship’s accountability is extremely difficult. Whether it’s a colleague, a Professional Relationships Speak Up, Especially When It’s Hard! partner, a contractor, consultant or even a customer, I’ve seen some of the best leaders down to front line contributors in a broad array of organizations struggle with this topic. In studying business relationships over the past decade, I’d submit the culprit is one of three factors: human nature, institutional norms, and conflict-avoidance leadership. Let me quickly tackle each:

1. An incredible powerful human motivation (weather we admit it or not) is the desire to be liked – to be thought of well by others. This is a huge reason we go to incredible lengths to justify not saying something when an important relationship doesn’t meet expectations, deliver mutually-agreed upon progress or results, or otherwise doesn’t carry their own weight! “It’s not my place to say something,” “if I say something, our relationship will never be the same,” or “I don’t have the skills to do this,” are common justifications in our heads.

2. Giving real time feedback is an organizational habit. So when candid feedback in every meeting isn’t the norm, both positive things relationships do, as well as areas for improvement aren’t mentioned! Peer regulation requires processes to be in place that institutionalize the opportunity for individual professionals to get better, while they raise the bar on their colleagues efforts as well. When asked in advance to speak to someone about a sensitive subject, drastically reduces one’s apprehension in approaching that relationship with good judgment and a great deal of decorum.

3. Conflict avoiding leaders fuel mediocrity! In an effort to offend no one, they say nothing. Leadership is most needed in time of conflict, where stewardship of a relationship will create the biggest impact! Leaders have a bias for results from their relationships and they realize they’re part of something bigger than themselves. The team will move beyond a conflict when it’s addressed, openly, candidly, and constructively. Things get better when the relationship gets better. Meritocracy is only achieved when the leader is determined to give candid, constructive input on one’s growing edges, regardless of the discomfort that interaction may create.

Candid, professional relationships hold each other accountable, which in turn leads to higher performance. It works because of the unwavering commitment by the professionals in the relationship to generate sustainable results, within and because of the relationship.

If you found these tips from David Nour of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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