Tact is the ability to say something without giving offense or simply being able to say what is appropriate for a situation.
Usually tact is most important in difficult and challenging situations. And if you’re in business you know that there are often challenging situations.
Stress is a major factor in our lives. Some can be good, but too much can be really bad for our health and our performance at work.
According to one study, people issues are a major source of stress in our lives along with workload issues, job security and managing work and personal life.
Those “people issues” are interesting to me. It’s difficult to manage the aspects of everyone’s job and life at your company, but it’s important that you do your part to lead by example and that involves being tactful.
Brutally Honest or Just Mean?
There’s a different between being honest and being mean.
Honesty is important, but the way you tell someone the truth matters almost as much or possibly more than what you’re actually telling them.
Let’s say that you tell someone on your team to write a one-page report on a trend in the industry. You open up the file after they send it and it’s not what you were expecting.
A common situation for some bosses is to tell the person via email or to their face that the project is junk or whatever word the boss likes to say.
Is that the truth?
Is it tactful?
A good way to approach the situation is to first think about how you may have helped to cause the issue. Did you provide enough direction for the project? Was there a clear vision for the employee to follow?
After looking at the situation from how you contributed then it’s time to look at how to properly give feedback so you’re moving the situation forward to a positive solution.
Go to the person and tell them what’s good about the project, but get into more of the details of what you’re looking for. Ask them questions about any struggles they had with the situation and see if you can figure out a way to put them in a position to succeed.
Positive Feedback Is Helpful
When we give feedback often we only highlight the negative. We go through this often with our work in blogging. A writer can do a 1,000 word blog post and the feedback is to change three sentences. Sometimes it’s easy for that feedback to be negative-sounding.
Giving feedback on things that need to change is certainly necessary and good, but when it’s the only feedback it can wear on the person you’re interacting with. So with our business we know we need to give positive feedback to writers.
And positive feedback is helpful. It’s positive reinforcement. When someone knows that something they’ve done is appreciated and good then they’re going to do that again and again.
In our business we definitely want writers to keep doing good things with their posts. I think that’s true in any business.
Yes, I understand that you’re paying people to do a job. It may feel like you don’t need to tell someone “good job”, but it makes your team feel good and when they’re happy they do better work and when they know they’re doing something good they’ll keep doing that.
You Do It Too
We tend to hold others to higher standards. We see someone do something that we think is wrong and we’re quick to point it out thinking that it’s an obvious mistake and how could they make that mistake.
But we do it too.
I have to catch myself doing this. A writer might miss something on a checklist like adding an internal link to a post and I’ll be quick to point that out without first thinking that I’ve made this mistake a number of times myself.
Simply recognizing that we make the same mistakes that others make can help us bring more tact to the situation.
Move The Situation Forward
The final point I want to make here is that business and life are about reflecting on present situations and figuring out the best thing to do to move the situation forward.
Let’s say someone does something bad on a project.
It’s frustrating. It’s angering especially if it’s happened before.
One way to react would be to berate the person that screwed up.
Is that likely to lead to the issue being resolved quickly or is it likely that an argument will break out?
Arguments are not going to move the situation forward.
It’s your job as the leader in the business to keep things moving forward. You have to mind your reactions and figure out how to be tactful so that your team is working in a positive way to succeed for themselves and for the business.
Tact comes down to understanding people and situations. You know how you feel, but it’s important to have compassion for how others feel. And if you want certain outcomes from interactions then tact becomes very important for your work life and it can be great for your personal life as well.