Tell the Truth

leaders tell the truthGreat leaders tell the truth. And they don’t just talk about the “good stuff.” They tell the truth about the status of your business and the results, even if the truth is painful. After all there is no need to hide what most of your employees already know. Openly discuss failed efforts and leverage these events as future learning opportunities. Candor is critical to creating a healthy work environment. It builds and sustains your credibility, while giving others opportunities to learn, change and succeed.

Why do so many leaders tend to sugarcoat or downright lie about how business is going or how their employees are performing? Fear. And sometimes ignorance. They’re afraid they’re going to come across as weak. And they often simply don’t understand or know how to “speak the truth” to staff or employees without appearing negative, harsh or unfair.

Leaders of all kinds – including great ones – make mistakes. But strong leaders will own and admit their mistakes, and they’re not afraid to give people “the honest facts,” whatever they may be. They’re also great coaches, meaning they provide non-emotional feedback that’s candid, fact-based and always tied to the person and/or the company’s goals. Remember, feedback doesn’t need to be confrontational to be effective.

Employees appreciate knowing the truth. They want to be held accountable for what and how they’re doing, and they respect bosses and leaders who are consistently straightforward and honest with them. Think of a time in your past that you thought you were doing a bang-up job, your manager complimented your work and then later criticized your work either to other staff members, in an annual performance review or, worse, in a company-wide meeting. Most likely, if you’d known the truth when it mattered most, you would have acted quickly to take corrective action and do better. Instead, you couldn’t easily recover – if at all. And you likely felt betrayed and dismayed at the poor professionalism demonstrated by your manager at the time. If only you’d known the truth!

Whenever you’re conflicted about whether or not to be upfront with an employee or to deliver honest, albeit challenging communications with those you manage, put yourself in their shoes. Your employees can’t achieve their goals unless they have an idea of how they’re truly performing and how their performance is affecting the company at large. Being honest about both individual and company performance creates transparency, letting everyone know where you stand and the status of the company’s health. That sets the stage for a candid workplace culture, which is the cornerstone to an accountable, productive workforce.

Why do you think some leaders avoid telling the truth?

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