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It's Not What You Say, It's The Way That You Say It
by Gina Gardiner

This principle is true of almost every situation but if you manage people it is vital that you learn the underlying principles of this if you want to create a team of people who respect you as their manager. Modelling good behaviour is also a great way of teaching your team to be mindful of their behaviour too.

I hear you say "that's obvious!" Yet so often huge difficulties are created because people say things in a way, or at a time, which makes others feel worthless or resentful. Really powerful messages lose their impact because the recipient focuses on the bad delivery rather than on the real issue.

You can say really difficult things and still maintain a positive relationship with your staff. When your team understand that you have their best interests at heart and everyone is keen to develop and grow constructive feedback is welcomed by all. The culture you create within your team, department or organization will make a significant difference to the way people will respond to your feedback.

Think about the way people have said difficult things to you. What approach was helpful? What made you feel bad? As a Manager you have the opportunity to make a positive difference to each individual in your team and through them to everyone they deal with.

There are a few simple principles. If these are followed it can save an enormous amount of difficulty for you and for the person on the receiving end.

1) Always treat people with respect. Whatever they have done, or failed to do, treating them as if they are idiots will get you nowhere in the long run.

2) Create a good rapport with the individuals in your team. When you need to give hard messages you will find the time taken to create good rapport and trust really pays huge dividends.

3) Public humiliation is never appropriate however tempting it may be. You make an enemy for life, you are seen as a bully and your reputation will be damaged far more than you realize.

4) Consider why you are so angry, irritated, let down. The intensity of our own emotion is often more about us than it is about the particular incident we are dealing with. If you have a difficult message to deliver, remember to focus on the learning you want to come out of it rather than how bad it has made you look.

5) Never fight fire with fire. If you are angry or upset it is much better to walk away and deal with it once you are in full control of yourself.

6) Plan what you want to say and why. Things said on the hoof often leave you with even greater problems for later. The more significant the issue the greater the need to plan.

7) Choose an appropriate place and time -- balling someone out in the corridor is inappropriate.

8) Consider the tone of voice you use. Shouting, being dictatorial, nagging all have a negative impact on the listener. Negative voices often bring up past issues and carry a punch with is disproportionate to the current event.

9) Challenge the unwanted behaviour rather than the person themselves.

10) Never burn your bridges -- it is a long walk round. Always look for a way forward. Involve the other person in creating a win- win solution wherever possible.

Gina Gardiner may be contacted at

Gina Gardiner has been described by Ofsted as an “inspirational leader” and by Investors in People as an “impressive coach and exceptional mentor who has developed an innovative and exemplary training scheme” for emergent, middle and senior managers. Gina has a huge interest in leadership, she has led a wide range of training and facilitation activities with individuals, schools and other organizations, In her work as Independent Consultant and as an Executive Life Coach and mentor she supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills and effective delegation; empowering them to see themselves as part of the solution. She is a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach. Author of “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And In Doing So Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion)”



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