Avoiding the platitudes and simple solutions

Wonderful! The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article called, “Not communicating with Your boss? Count your blessings.”

The wisdom in this article offers a fantastic criticism of much advice that some executive coaches spew. For instance:

– Asking “How can I help?” can be a good thing to do, but can also offend certain people by implying they need help.

– Paraphrasing what people say to show you are listening can make you sound like an idiot and offend others (who may not appreciate being paraphrased).

–  Some problems between people can’t be solved by 5-step formulas or action plans.

– Open communication can backfire with easily threatened managers, or managers with borderline personalities.

– Don’t confuse communication problems with much more serious relationship problems. The latter requires much more nuanced understanding and actions.

– Don’t confuse talking with doing. Results speak the loudest.

– Sometimes no communication is much better than communication — even if, for instance, a boss asks for open communication and feedback. (The article gives the example of a boss who asked a manager for feedback about why his direct reports seemed fearful of him. When she explained why people reacted the way they did to him, he almost fired her).

At the Center for Executive Coaching, we do our best to avoid platitudes (the article notes one article on communication that advises, “Listen to gain understanding”) and instead focus on real-life situations in all of their complexity. The best coaches avoid lazy advice, and have the depth of experience required to help their clients succeed in challenging, politically charged, and often dysfunctional environments.

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