“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy” — Sir Isaac Newton
Tact is the capacity to relay facts in a manner that is sympathetic of a person’s emotions and reactions. Tact enables people to say the right thing to preserve a relationship. Tact encompasses many things, including discernment, thoughtfulness, and compassion. When leaders communicate tactfully respect is gained professionally and personally. Individuals who encounter a leader who is devoid of tact conceivably lose respect for the leader and their vision. The following examples are real life scenarios of people in leadership positions lacking tact when interacting with a colleague.
Tactless: During a meeting the importance of compact licensure regarding a particular state was discussed by a committee chair. While speaking, the committee chair mistakenly named a state not participating within the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). After the nurse was finished with her example the presiding chair states, “That was a bad example, Alabama is not a compact state, however Mississippi is a compact state and you can skip over states to work…..” Additionally, the presiding chair’s diatribe was complete with posturing and finger pointing.
Tactful: A prudent response would be, “That was a great example, however the state you mentioned is not a compact state but your example could work with South Carolina which is a border state that participates within the NLC.”
Tactless: A student nurse practitioner was presenting a case to her preceptor who was known to have a horrible temper. While the student was presenting the case, the preceptor started to interrogate her regarding trivial matters having absolutely nothing to do with the patient’s diagnosis. As a consequence, the student became increasingly nervous and started stuttering. Then her preceptor states the following, “You’re too slow.”, “Get your act together.”, “You should know these things before you report off to me.”. Finally, adding insult to injury the preceptor says, “Continue down this path you will not be a good nurse practitioner and certainly not one I would hire.”
Tactful: Displaying a calm, assuring manner while the student presented their case would’ve been the most sensible approach.
Tactless: After a failed partnership, a mutual acquaintance approaches the person who left the alliance to tell her, “You have missed your opportunity. That was your time to shine. We don’t know when your time will reappear again, it may be 5, 10, or 15 years. We don’t know.”
Tactful: A statement such as, “Although I may feel it’s unfortunate you chose not to work with this person, I wish you continued success regarding your endeavors”; would’ve proven sufficient.
A few key ideas leaders should remember:
1) There is a difference between being assertive and aggression.
A leader who is assertive displays confidence when voicing their opinion. An assertive leader is always tactful in their interactions with others. Tactics of aggression such as posturing and finger pointing are unprofessional. When colleagues are faced with an aggressive leader some retreat or others may fight back. Retreating and retaliation creates a hostile environment of which nothing meaningful to promote the group’s vision is completed.
2) Leaders should never extinguish the dreams of others.
Leaders fertilize the dreams of associates through mentorship. A measure of a great leader is the number of leaders that are produced from their guidance. Leaders should strive to grow their own crop of leaders. Alternatively, telling someone they would not be a good nurse practitioner is destiny assassination. This type of malicious behavior demonstrates the true personality of an individual who considers himself a leader. Often a person who says these despicable things is insecure regarding their leadership abilities.
3) Listen to understand not to solely respond.
Commonly, people listen only to immediately retort. It seems as though when tensions are high both parties neglect to understand the other’s point of view. This misperception has the potential to ruin personal and business relationships alike. It may be difficult for some but it is essential leaders attempt to understand the other person’s position. This higher level of comprehension is what builds character among leaders.
4) Watch your body language
Body language has an important effect of perception to the listener. A smile indicates a pleasant demeanor. Good body posture suggest confidence. Finger pointing and posturing indicates insecurity and aggression. Leaders should aim to exhibit positive body language when interacting with colleagues.
5) Think before you speak
Whether the comment was meaningful or occurred during a fit of rage, once the remark is said it can never be taken back. The person may state, “I didn’t mean to say that.”; however the majority forgives but never forgets. When a leader is led by emotion rather than rational logic a seed of failure is planted within the group. This seed breeds negativity, discourse, and dissention. These variables are detrimental to an organization and its purpose.
For many, tact is a learned behavior. The person may be unaware of how their words or actions are perceived by others. Implementing tact within one’s moral compass takes time and self – reflection. A self – assessment is necessary for the leader to gauge how injurious their comments were towards others. This voluntary action of inward reflection could possibly serve as a catalyst of change for the person. Through this metamorphosis of thought a substandard boss develops into a prominent leader.