We all have heard the saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say; don't say anything at all.". An accomplished football player and team leader chose to ignore this rule in a recent article of Men's Journal. James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, called the commissioner of the NFL names such as "dictator", "punk", "crook", "devil", and topped it off with a gay slur. He then went on to slam a couple of teammates in the same mean spirit, albeit with less vicious vocabulary. Harrison's mistakes should be used as opportunities for other leaders to learn. Here is a quick check list for all those who are going to give interviews:
1) Talk to the reporter beforehand. Make sure you understand the kind of story they want to write and get a list of questions in advance.
2) Remember the reporter is trying to write an exciting story. They want you to be provocative, cause controversy, which will give the story a longer shelf life. Be careful you are causing what you want to cause; don't let the reporter to achieve her or his agenda at your expense.
3) Ask for the right to review the story before it's printed. Let them know your reputation is important to you and that you want to ensure your messages are delivered within the framework and context of your intent.
4) Think before you speak. Think about the consequences and impact of your words. Think about how people will feel about your observations. Think about what people will think about you after they read the story and your statements. Be accountable for your message and the impact.
5) Be civil. Words can hurt and people don't forget the pain. I know being outrageous and confrontational seems to be the norm. But good leaders can get their message across by being firm, consistent, and civil. We won't agree with everyone and debate is what makes progress possible but common courtesy need not be lost. Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
6) And if you can't adhere to the thoughts above, for you own good, don't say anything at all.
Remember - think about the message, messenger, timing and method of all your communications. Be clear, thoughtful, and civil. If you do so, you will lead an effective conversation.