Advocacy in business is more complicated than you may think. There’s more involved than just sending positive energy or being a cheerleader. To really advocate, you also need to point out what the business is doing wrong and ways you think they can improve. By all means, praise the good things you see! But you’re not doing anyone any favors if you gloss over areas where change is needed. A truly honest, full-bodied assessment is the only way you can really help.
Be Unflinching in Your Approach to Problems
Just as we all want to succeed in business, we also want success for our friends and colleagues. The only true way forward is to charge right in! There are some issues—especially when starting a business—that can seem insurmountable. Falling into the trap of putting off the toughest challenges to deal with lesser issues is the less challenging path. But you shouldn’t do that in your business or let your colleagues do it with theirs. Identify the biggest obstacles to success, diagnose the problems and work tirelessly to solve them. A big problem won’t get any smaller if you ignore it, however daunting it may be.
Learn to Offend
In polite society and in many of our personal relationships, we constantly censor ourselves and soften our language. True advocacy, though, requires we be both direct and entirely—even brutally—honest. One of my core beliefs is to say exactly what’s on your mind. Criticism can be tough to give out and take. And the truth definitely hurts sometimes. But letting a colleague’s business—possibly one that works with your business as well—continue down the wrong path in a misguided attempt to be sensitive will only hurt both of you more.
Reap the Rewards
When you’re direct and forthright in your speech, even when your message isn’t something people want to hear, a funny thing happens: They respect you. Being a decent, on-the-level straight-shooter is attractive to people who truly want success. Think of the huge reputations that some of the early legends of film built by bringing those traits to the masses! Your colleagues will appreciate your sincerity. And that will boost your position in your field leading to favorable connections and referrals.
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