There is a lot of pressure on business owners right now. If you’re the owner of a trade-based business, you are likely dealing with the effects of the skills shortage, materials shortage and all the other effects of the pandemic.
As a leader, any stress and concerns we are personally experiencing must not negatively affect how you manage and communicate with your team, clients and suppliers.
When we’re under added stress and things aren’t going exactly to plan, we can be prone to letting our emotions get the best of us and that can affect how we communicate. Often, without us even realising it, we can be perceived as being aggressive, demanding and dismissive of others.
To address and overcome the issues your business is facing, my first tip is to communicate with the team your plan for your business – by involving them your team will gain buy into your plan and respect your leadership – so effective communication is key.
Assertiveness vs aggression
There is an important distinction between assertiveness and aggression – and in leadership, it’s important to use the correct approach in your communications.
Aggressiveness can often be confused with assertiveness, as aggressive people are not shy about voicing their opinion. The difference between the two lies in the delivery of that opinion. Assertive people do not make people feel insignificant or wrong.
Assertiveness is key when it comes to communicating openly and honestly. Most people get scared when the situation calls for them to give their honest opinions. We are fearful of hurting other people, making them angry and causing a rift.
Because of these overarching fears, we often don’t say what needs to be said. This can mean that problems are not fixed, and under-performance is tolerated – which can have a detrimental effect on the culture of your entire business.
So as an effective leader, we must be open and honest in our communications without allowing our emotions to affect our communications negatively – and this is where assertiveness comes in.
Dr Henry Cloud wrote in his book, Boundaries for Leaders a quote: “Hard on the issue, soft on the person.”
Why are you going hard on the issue and soft on the person? Because you want them to change. And being aggressive isn’t not going to warm a team member up to hearing and acting on the feedback you need to provide.
Assertiveness is a core skill. It means you articulate your stand effectively without being emotional. You command respect through confidence, clarity and control.
You are confident expressing your opinion to others irrespective of your relationship with them. It means you can stand up for your views even in difficult situations and can say “no” when necessary.
When being assertive, it’s likely that some tension and conflict may arise. But as you are being assertive and not letting emotions take over, any conflict can be addressed in a calm, rational, logical manner.
Find agreement on what’s not working, and what can be done to fix it. This allows you to move forward, with the support of your team with everyone buying into the process – not harbouring resentment and anger.
It’s your job to get the maximum results in minimum time. If you are aggressive, you might get some of your team to come along for a ride for a short while, but the majority of your team will likely begin looking for new opportunities where they feel more valued.
Handling Situations Skilfully
The word manipulation often has negative connotations – but it doesn’t have to be considered that way. Manipulation simply means to negotiate, control, or influence someone or something.
Simply put, it means handling people, things or situations – this can be done cleverly, skilfully or deviously – so the word manipulate is neither negative or positive – it just is! Everyone manipulates.
What is negative or positive is how you handle what is happening and how it is perceived by others.
So in order to skillfully manipulate a situation, you must convey your true and honest opinions without offending others and get them to buy into your point of view. Assertiveness, obviously, is key to this. The moment aggression is used, your ability to manipulate the situation to your benefit is largely lost.
Effective communication is vital to a leader’s success – and in turn, the success of your business.
By using assertive communication, rather than being aggressive and emotional, will allow your business to work much more efficiently towards a common goal, with each member of your team clearly understanding their own responsibilities and the part they play in the bigger picture.
The building and construction industry is currently seeing rapid growth and increased demand while also dealing with a severe skills shortage, exacerbated by the closing of international borders due to the pandemic.