Speak Up Using the 3 C’s at Work – Communication, Courage and Candor

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Many of us think that being honest at work can be dangerous or detrimental to our career success. We can all name a time that “Mr.” or “Ms.” spoke up in a meeting and their career trajectory seemed to stop that very day.  The question that remains, is how to we be honest, and speak up successfully at work in a way that does not damage our career and makes the business better.


In order to do this, consider bringing the 3 C’s to work: Communication, Courage, and Candor.


Communication. Communication at work seems a straight forward path.  After all, at work, we email, text, discuss on conference calls, and talk in meetings, so we communicate a great deal.  Right?  Maybe not.  The essential difference is that email, text, conference calls, and meetings are primarily platforms for the exchange of information and not always platforms for open communication.  Open communication is when you have at least two parties, hopefully face-to-face, undistracted, and engaged in an exchange over a specific set of issues that each person recognizes.  Exchange of information happens a great deal at work, probably 90% of the time, and open communication probably happens the other, 10%.  No matter the topic of strategy, career advancement, promotions, layoff’s, innovation, customer strategy, and new products, business meetings need more personalization following the Open Communication framework. 


To create an atmosphere for Open Communication, follow these simple tips. First, don't try to have an open communication dialogue over email, text, conference call or in large meetings.  The formats of email, text, conference call, and large meetings are for exchanging information and Open Communication does not work well.  Second, schedule Open Communication for 30-45 minutes in a semi-private setting such as a neutral office, an open conference room, or a quiet coffee shop.  Third, have a preset agenda with no more than three items to discuss and give it to the other person (s) at least 24 hours in advance.  Fourth, have at most three to four people at the meeting to encourage open dialogue.  Fifth, stick to the agenda of three items and no more.  If additional items come up, then add them to the next meeting.  Sixth, no PowerPoint, slides, or charts.  Use this time to look everyone in the eye, listen openly and talk openly.  Finally, spend the last 10 minutes to review what was decided and set the next meeting for no more than five days to keep the momentum and openness going.  The setting, preparation, and agenda are vital to an Open Communication style meeting.


Courage. Business works best when people speak openly, when people listen openly, and when problems are confronted openly. This takes equal amounts of courage on both the speaker and on the listener.  Most importantly, everyone in the meeting must acknowledge and appreciate the other person’s courage.  For the speaker, yes, it takes courage to speak up, but the speaker also needs to recognize the courage of the other person to hear new, challenging, or problematic news.  For the listener, having the courage to hear unwelcome news is important, but have the courage to recognize the courage that it took the speaker to bring this to the other person’s attention.  When we recognize each other’s courage to hear and deliver bad and challenging news, it becomes much easier to hear, much easier to deliver, and much easier to work together towards a solution.


Candor. Candor is another word for honesty, but true candor is much more than a brutally honest discussion.  True candor is open, honest and kind.  Kind?  Kind is exactly the right word, because it is relatively easy to be brutally honest and lack compassion.  However, when we realize that true candor is open, respectful, truthful, and kind communication, then we know that we have the style of communication right.  Because, by being open and being kind, we directly acknowledge the importance of the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions when we communications.  Kindness is what enables true candor for both the listener and for the speaker.


Open Communication at work is hard. When we use, small, personal, face-to-face, and open meetings we set the stage for effective communication.  When we allow both Courage and Candor into our meetings that use kindness and true respect for the other person, we create an atmosphere that can listen, learn, and solve business challenges.


Have something to add to this article? Share your advice below.


Other Articles of Interest:

How Military Skills Demystify Corporate Culture  

Secrets for Sharing More at Work 

Soft Military Skills That Deliver Hard Results for Military Veteran Careers


Blogger Biography: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 110 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com

1 Comment
Occasional Contributor

When you take a civilian boss off his soapbox by telling him the proccesses in which he runs his organization are flawed. That is how you end up unemployed and as a veteran civilians look at you like your an idiot. Like you were in the military you are use to things being messed up why is this any different. From my expierence people think veterans are just order takers that you can treat like a robot and yell at and insult because thats what we are use to.