With National Honesty Day approaching on April 30th, managers and leaders everywhere have an opportunity to evaluate the role honesty plays in their workplace. We surveyed over 1,400 executives and employees and found that 70% of respondents believed a lack of honesty impacted their company’s ability to perform optimally.
When the topic of being truly honest comes up, leaders and employees usually express fear that some people can’t handle the “whole” truth. And we say simply: Stop with that excuse. Don’t make other people’s compromises for them. Hold people around you able to listen and learn the truth. It is the much more respectful route for everyone. Oftentimes when people say that the other person can’t handle it, it is really the person tasked with sharing something difficult or potentially trajectory-changing that have the issue in the first place.
Be the person in your team, organization, family, and community that is able to describe reality in a way that is respectful and makes a difference. It takes practice and skill to feel more comfortable. Use these three tips to help you get there.
Ask for Feedback and Really Listen
- Do: Encourage honesty by continually asking for feedback. Just like we need reminders to do so many things in life, employees need constant opportunities to give and receive feedback. During my one-on-one meetings, I always dedicate time and specifically ask for feedback. Sometimes when I don’t initially get any, I ask some questions to help. Examples are: What else can I do to support you better? What can be improved in our working relationship? What is not working as well as it could? The more specific the question, the more specific the answers.
- Don’t: Jump straight to defensiveness when you hear something you disagree with or feel was misunderstood. Common problems pop up when someone sticks their toes in the water and immediately gets a jarring reaction. It is important to act curious and dig for deeper understanding. If you don’t want to really listen and learn, then you shouldn’t be asking for feedback in the first place.
Stay Current and Keep it Short
- Do: Make things easier on everyone by addressing issues as soon as they arise in a timely manner, free of emotional load. Calmly and clearly state the issue at hand, the impact, and give no more than three examples of when it occurred. This conversation is long overdue if there are more than three examples or more than one issue to resolve. It is important to create a culture where people do not hold on to something negative.
- Don’t: Avoid the “dump truck” approach. This happens when people have avoided an issue too long, and they have a laundry list of complaints to spew at their victim. It is not respectful to hold onto so much and then release without the person being prepared. Take responsibility for your part.
Lose the Pillows and Be Direct
- Do: Be direct with employees and colleagues, so they have a clear action plan when something is not working well. Tell them what is at stake and the necessary steps to resolve issues together. At the end of the conversation, repeat the new agreement to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Don’t: Choose to cushion the conversation to minimize any negative impact. This may include giving compliments, slipping in the actual issue during small talk, or changing subjects so quickly the other person doesn’t have a chance to digest the problem. In the end, the employee isn’t even aware that there is a problem to fix.
Now is a better time than ever to step out of the “comfort” zone and share what you truly think and feel. Be a little more honest.
Baby steps are better than none.