Which is better, candor or diplomacy? How polarity-thinking can help you manage the up and down sides of both.
Competition and collaboration. Work and rest. Candor and diplomacy. The business world is full of polarities to handle. Yet, is there a way to do it right?
According to Dr. Barry Johnson, the best way to manage polarities is to supplement either/or thinking with a both/and approach. While ‘either/or’ thinking requires you to choose between the two polarities, ‘both/and’ thinking allows you to navigate between them freely.
Now, to better understand how polarities work in practice, think of Candor and Diplomacy. I believe, as multicultural and diverse workplaces emerge daily, it is imperative to consider.
What defines a candid person?
Candid people value being direct and honest in conversations and letting others know where they stand. However, if they overdo it, they may unintentionally push people away and others may not feel comfortable speaking up.
Upsides: Colleagues know where leaders stand.
Downsides: Colleagues might feel alienated and afraid to voice their own opinions.
Fears: Not being truthful and maintaining integrity.
What defines a diplomatic person?
Such people typically value learning from diverse perspectives and engage in consensus-driven conversations. However, if they overdo this approach, they may end up in analysis-paralysis where people talk in circles and decisions are not made.
Upsides: Colleagues are comfortable sharing their opinions.
Downsides: There is no clear decision or action.
Fears: Damaging relationships or others feeling alienated.
Candor VS Diplomacy: Which one is best?
Everybody likes clarity. Yet, anchoring yourself to one of these poles will not do any good. If you do, you may have short-term success without any long-term gain or worse, will end up with a team who feels deflated and unmotivated.
Understanding that both poles have pros and cons will help you find a "both/and" solution.
You need to acknowledge the downsides of your preference and the upsides of the other side. Leveraging both candor and diplomacy may provide a structure for healthy debate where people candidly share their points of view and are also curious and open to acknowledging and validating other perspectives. This approach of leveraging the upsides of both poles allows for the greatest outcomes to be realized.
There are an infinite amount of polarities that exist in the leadership space: Mission and Margin, People and Task, Delegate and Do it Myself, Reactive and Proactive…
No matter what polarity you find yourself in, to embrace a both/and mindset, one must increase their tolerance for discomfort and risk. One must accept vulnerability and address their own fears to achieve optimal results.
What polarities do you often wrestle with? What creative tensions show up for you as a leader?