Can You Handle the Truth About Your Business

Almost every leader I speak with says they would like more clarity and candor from their teams. Yet, people resist. Why? Some common concerns are:

  • Candor can create conflict and hurt feelings.
  • Fear of looking bad.
  • Fear of retribution.
  • A desire to be nice vs. accountable.

Candor is important. It can literally be the difference between life and death. In the 1980’s researchers evaluated airline crews. They placed them in a simulator and gave them a crisis. There were three outcomes:

  • The Captain took control and tried to land the plane alone. They had more accidents.
  • The Captain asked for input, the crew collaborated and shared information, and they landed safely more often then the other two groups.
  • The Captain asked for help, and the crew remained silent. They crashed almost as often as the first group.

Photo by from Pexels

When they debriefed the crew the researchers discovered that the captain had created a culture in the cockpit where candor was not welcome. Or feedback and input was diminished.

What happens in your organization when you are not getting all of the information because your people are not candid with you? When visitors to your store drop off and no one says anything? When there is a leak in the bathroom, and no one mentions it and pretty soon you are replacing the sub-floor? What about when a Doctor or Nurse comes into your room and they don’t wash their hands before they examine you and no one says anything?

Because candor is important and because candor is difficult, here are some thoughts on how you can create a culture that embraces it.

Create psychological safety. Make it safe to be candid. That means not rolling your eyes when someone says something you don’t want to hear. It means not saying, “we’ve already tried that.” You want people to realize they can be candid.

As a leader there are three things you can do to foster candor:

  • Ask for it, over and over again. People are afraid to speak truth to power so you need to encourage it.
  • When you hear something uncomfortable don’t roll your eyes or cross your arms or diminish what you heard.
  • Model candor. That means if you notice something that needs attention, say something.

The rewards for candor can be dramatic as well. Take Ford Motor Company under Alan Mullaly. He demanded candor from his leadership team. And as they realized it was safe to be candid, Ford Motors turned around. And when the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 happened, Ford did not need a bail out. They had already dealt with the hard stuff.


If you wonder if you ir your organization  can benefit from better communication skills for accountability, engagement, and performance, schedule a call  to explore the possibilities. CALENDAR


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