Climbing the Ranks with Diplomacy

Shot from Istock event in Ottawa.

Do you (like me) want to climb high in the office ranks?  I hope to one day become a CMO.  I used to cut strings at a disability employment shelter for $5 total for two forty-hour workweeks.  I’ve since set my sights higher.

But the communications lately from everyone at my office place have been more conflictual.  So, I reached out to my brother who earned over half a million dollars each year in a director role.  I asked him how I should behave in a CMO role.  He said that female executives do very well if they are either very friendly or very formal.  He said, “Judging from your personality, you should be very formal.” I’m typically the office cheerleader, too friendly.

But I wondered yesterday, how can I become a leader of people in a way that is uplifting and, well, downright positive?

That’s when I opened  The Positive Trait Thesaurus and found the answer: lead with diplomacy.  Here are my favorite ways to lead with diplomacy.  The direct citations from The Positive Trait Thesaurus are in bold.  My responses are in plain font.

Defusing high emotions by remaining calm and reasonable.  When someone lashes out at me, I like to pretend it’s not meant for me.  It’s not mine.  I try to find the value—a way I can grow—from the outburst.  But sometimes my emotions run wild.  If I just stay, at the very least, quiet, I’m better off than had I fired back a rebuttal.  And if possible, I aim to never cry or express anger.  These emotions are part of a victim mentality and should be avoided.

Showing kindness when correcting someone’s misconception or mistake.  I watched a video today where someone was given constructive criticism.  The criticized person had a big purple monster grow out of his back with each criticism until it became a giant angry octopus.  The octopus detached from the person’s back and attacked the criticizer.  Of course, it was a cartoon on diplomacy, but it told me to avoid criticizing people.  Instead, we need to be diplomatic to emphasize the person’s strengths as much as possible.

Offering honesty—but in a way that won’t cause offense.  In the cartoon on diplomacy I watched, it was advised to be honest, not give false hope, with matters such as ending a relationship, firing someone, or rejecting someone’s project.  I saw some merit in that, but I believe we come to a point in any relationship with a person, institution, or corporate entity, where we must commit—with pure positivity.  For instance, when we have children, we must commit to our marriage for life, I believe.  After our first full ten courses at AU, we must commit to graduate.  Similarly, after a year with a corporation we feel great about, we must stay and grow for as long as the company will keep us.  That’s just my bias.  Commitment to another helps us grow more richly than had we abandoned our cause.  And once at that stage of commitment, I believe we should withhold all criticisms and complaints.

Being highly aware of people’s emotions and working to avoid hurt feelings.  I know the triggers for most everyone.  They are (1) being confronted, (2) being criticized, (3) listening to complaints, (4) being the object of ridicule, and (5) feeling someone’s anger, whether it be sulking or outright aggression.  If we can avoid doing these things to others, our relationships significantly improve.  I’ve also learned that everyone has faults, especially me, so I try not getting offended or judgmental when someone strikes out at me.  I try to humbly shoulder the anger in a neutral way.  And I try to avoid the actions that triggered the person in the first place, or simply accept any negativity as part of the person’s developmental phase in life.

To truly lead people, diplomacy is a must.  After all, no-one wants a fearful, angry, or critical employer.  But everyone loves a leader who builds us up.