The Compassionately Blunt Universe for Leaders – Embracing Clarity in 2019

Happy 2019!  I hope I can still say that! The second week of January has already passed! I’ve consciously decided that 2019 is a year of significant promise and opportunity and I hope you have too!

2019 will also continue to be a marathon of change. It will be full of attacks on our senses and sensibilities as we wade through endless information, multiple priorities and shortages of time, all while trying to make sense of it all. In other words, trying to find clarity.

One of the definitions of clarity is  the quality of being easy to see or hear”.

As I plan my 2019 work with clients, I see greater need for clarity: of vision, purpose and outcomes in the workplace. Shifts in economics, demographics, technology and mobile working challenge our ability, as leaders to provide clarity, and employees need it now more than ever.

Last year in one of my blogs, I introduced the concept of being Compassionately Blunt©as an approach to giving meaningful feedback. Being Compassionately Blunt© isn’t about telling it like it is, or being politically incorrect to make a point. The definition of Compassionately Blunt©is: I care enough to be authentic and truthful to you for good.  The key words here are care, authentic and truthful.  Each component needs to be employed together to have real impact. I have found this to be an important approach in positively advancing work with clients.  It has also helped me support and develop employees over the years, as they seek clarity in their goals and plans for the future.

You too, can bring clarity to your employees, teams or even to yourself using these 3 components, realism, pragmatism and activism.


Realism is being honest about the situation or problem at hand. Being honest about the what’s happening inside the company, changes in the marketplace and the realities that changes create are important.  It’s even more important when the changes at hand can negatively impact employees.

One of my clients is currently going through organizational shifts that will likely result in significant changes for some employees and none for others. Even though we don’t know exactly what the changes are yet, we often talk about the idea that employees know what’s going on and the possible impacts to them. Our job is to create meaningful dialogue to help them put those changes into context. To borrow from David Bowie’s song Changes, they are “quite aware of what they’re going through.

Being real with employees about what’s going on, validates their experience, even if what’s going on in the workplace doesn’t directly impact them. It’s an important way to maintain trust during disruptive times and the first critical step in creating a Compassionately Blunt© universe at work.


One of the underlying reasons for employing compassionate bluntness is that it enables a certain level of pragmatism that is sorely needed. Identifying solutions based on what can actually be done versus what is ideal is another way that leaders bring clarity to their employees.

For example, your company’s leadership team sets five goals forth for 2019. The likelihood of all of your employees being able to meaningfully contribute to every single goal is slim at best. Yet, often employees are made to include all the company goals on their plan for the year in an effort to create “alignment”.

A pragmatic approach helps us determine what’s reasonable for each employee to contribute.  For some employees, it will be doing their work consistently and reliably to support the team.  For others, it will involve projects and stretch assignments.  As leaders, being pragmatic sets realistic expectations and highlights the path forward to achieving them.


Chris Cuomo, host of CNN’s Cuomo Primetime says, “let’s get after it” as part of each showEach night he gives guests on both sides of the political spectrum the opportunity to share their point of view. The result is often a lot of debate club style arguing, but each side has more clarity of the other’s point of view, even if no one actually changes their point of view. In a work setting, one of the best ways to bring clarity to teams is to help employees get active.

Activism in this context isn’t about protesting outside the office about the quality of the coffee in the lunchroom. It’s about helping focus employees’ focus their energy productively to produce results.

Being realistic and practical are useful only if they are in service of tangible outcomes. Employees can get after “it”, if they know what “it” is and understand how they can do so. I’m fortunate enough to work with leaders and employees who are motivated to do good work that creates meaningful results. Leaders who are able to channel their employees’ efforts to achieve quality outcomes are in fact, modeling clarity by helping them get active.

Employees appreciate and respond to leaders that are easy to see and hear. Leaders who take a realistic, pragmatic and active approach to the ever-present changes in their work and help their employees do so, are indeed embracing clarity!

As you look ahead and plan your 2019, consider the ways that you can create clarity and define your own Compassionately Blunt© universe.

Pauline Greenidge

Pauline Greenidge is an HR Consultant and Chartered Professional in Human Resources. She empowers others to create positive employee experiences. Her book A Grand Dinner Party is available on and

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