I remember hearing one of three partners in a small engineering firm suggest that complete honesty may not be the best idea if the three are to get along.
My response was a plea to reconsider this approach.
I knew the price to be paid when the leaders of a company do not have a commitment to the truth – and it is a very expensive levy.
The fact is, that when we are honest with someone, they might not initially like the message. Even the most constructive criticism may still not be pleasurable to receive.
In my business experience; the truth is a precious and invaluable gift.
Most leaders are unaware of exactly what people are thinking in their own company. Any person on their team who will be completely candid, especially when they question or disagree with a plan, is an extremely valuable employee.
If the values of a firm include “we are completely committed to the truth and will be honest in all situations”, there are three significant benefits that will quickly become obvious:
1 Goodbye Guesswork – Most people do not enjoy or appreciate needing to “read between the lines” to determine what a person is trying to say. A leader who is always truthful eliminates the need for interpretation. There is a world of difference between “Is that really what you want to do?” and “I think we should consider a second approach”. One is ambiguous and one is a clear question. What you see is what you get; how refreshing!
2 Rave Reviews – While performance reviews may be slowly changing or disappearing in some companies, many firms still provide oral and written feedback to their team members regarding their performance and status in the company. Your team members want to know exactly where they stand. If you’ve hired well, this is a critically important exchange of feedback. Those employees want the truth. They do not want to wonder if you’re trying to send a veiled message. Most important, if they are not getting the job done and you’re not sure if they’re going to make it, they want to know and deep inside they likely already know. Your performance reviews will benefit the company, your team member and you, when you tell your team members exactly where they stand.
3 Happy Happy – If you want to be a happy leader, be completely transparent with all of your leaders. You will never need to remember what you really said to soften the message. You will be in complete comfort knowing the truth has set you free. You will also be able to publicly admit your weaknesses and mistakes, acknowledging you are imperfect as well and always working on improving your performance as a leader. Nothing will impress your team like admitting your mistakes, taking responsibility for them and committing to personal improvement. Nothing will lighten your load like knowing there are no secrets.
The biggest long term benefit of a company built on transparency is watching the organization become known for this trait. As customers realize all of your employees will take full responsibility for anything but the highest levels of service, those customers will respect and appreciate your name and brand. Your business will be recognized for honesty and accountability. How refreshing!
May I be candid? Be candid. Always.
I hope this lesson on transparency has you thinking. Best…
“When you’re green, you’re growing; when you’re ripe, you’re rotten”