target-1551492_1920When we think of a straight shooter we tend to think of persons who can be depended on to communicate the truth.  While this is accurate, straight shooters come in many varieties. There are persons who use straight shooting to support members of their teams and others use it to destroy.  Some are consistently straight shooters because they value integrity and others use it as a deliberate strategy to hurt or manipulate their coworkers.  Some persons who consider themselves straight shooters are blunt, others communicate the truth more elegantly.  Then there are straight shooters who say too much and others who just use sound-bytes.

This article is for straight-shooters who are consistent, integrity based, and committed to the truth.  So here are a few observations. When straight-shooters coexist within an organization, they have a love/hate relationship with persons who are highly political.  Political persons use straight-shooters because they are among the few who will risk telling them the truth when they need it.  However, straight shooters are also viewed as risky when corruption, deceit and sabotage abound.

Because of the danger they pose for political persons with something to hide, straight-shooters can be marginalized, regardless their level.  They can be blocked because they are perceived to have the potential to say more than they should. From the politician’s point of view, the truth hinders, makes them uncomfortable or exposed, so they do not want to hear it.  For these reasons office politicians cannot trust straight shooters because there is always threat of exposure which is usually perceived as an attack.

Straight shooters who value the truth, tell the truth naturally. They are intrinsically motivated by an internal compass. In fact, they are willing to sacrifice themselves rather than betray their own souls. Unfortunately, this commitment to the truth at all costs generates distrust among those who have something to hide. Transparence is the antithesis of unhealthy political behaviour in the office.

Straight shooters value their integrity based reputations.  A straight shooter not only wants to tell the truth he / she expects the truth in return. These persons are not afraid of it, nor do they feel attacked by it.  Instead, they are refreshed by it.

When straight shooters are not socially or politically savvy, office politicians can view them through the eyes of opportunism.  These persons manipulate straight shooters for information they can use to orchestrate their personal agendas.  Sometimes they manipulate straight shooters by using partial truths and spin.  They create the appearance straight shooting but it is only a mask.

Glass ceiling for straight shooters

Because of the threat they pose in political environments, straight shooters can encounter a glass ceiling. This is because the higher up they go, the more necessary it becomes to possess social and emotional competencies. They need to be aware of the feelings and emotions of their direct reports, peers and bosses. Empathy skills can help diffuse negative or tense environments.

Sometimes straight shooters receive mixed reviews.  They may be respected and deeply cared about by their direct reports because these tea members know their leaders will stand up for and protect them, support their growth and be fair.  On the other hand, these leaders can be feared or despised by persons who value political behaviours.

So the question is, how can straight shooters break through the glass ceiling?  There are a number of ways they can achieve this while simultaneously maintaining their integrity.  It is possible but it is not easy.

Straight shooters can break through the glass ceiling by:

  1. Developing their emotional intelligence skills. Self-awareness hones the skills they need to become aware of others.  They should carefully consider the impact of their words and body language.
  2. They break through by fine tuning their communication skills so they can get their messages across using elegant language that does not detract from the meaning. One way they achieve this is by sticking to the facts, not communicating opinions like I’m disappointed in you.” Instead, they use questions like:
    1. What is the root cause?
    2. How can we fix this?
    3. Or what have you learned from this? These questions remove the need for blame and excuses, focusing on solutions.
  3. Straight shooters who want to break through the glass ceiling know each situation is different so they learn what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. They understand the rules of engagement in the context of their respective cultures.  They know the power players and what they value so they find ways to engage political games without sacrificing their values.  They know this is possible.

Straight shooters often feel marginalized.  While some are underutilized because they are avoided, others are experts who are highly involved in the day-to-day operations of their respective companies despite their communication style.  By developing the recommended skills, straight shooters can position themselves to break through the glass ceiling.

Yvette Bethel is CEO of Organizational Soul, an Organizational Effectiveness Consulting and Leadership Development company. She is a Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Facilitator, Executive Coach, Author, and Emotional Intelligence Practitioner.  If you are interested Yvette's ideas on other leadership topics you can sign up for her newsletter at www.yvettebethel.com or you can listen to her podcast at Evolve Podcast.