One of the most valuable lessons I learned while I was working as a counselor was most people want honesty as long as it is not honest. As much as people say they want you to be truthful with them, most cannot handle the truth.
This is even true in the business environment. When I go inside a company to work, I search for three things:
If you look at these, they go together — don’t they? You will never have clear communication without people trusting each other. If there is no trust, there sure won’t be honesty. Without the honesty, things can’t improve. When you can’t honestly deal with issues, they don’t go away. They just hang around and fester until they become an emotional issue so large they explode as a wild fire.
So, here is a question for you: Do you want your people to always be honest with you?
Now think about that!
Do you want your people to always share with you what they are feeling?
Are you the type of person who can handle the honesty without reacting?
Can you sit down with your people, have them honestly look at your business environment and handle what they will tell you?
One owner put it this way, “I want them to be honest as long as I am not the issue.” The tragedy is — that is how I see most companies run. I had an owner call me and want me to come to his business and help him clear the confusion and get them back on track. They have been a very profitable company and now they were losing business. BUT, here was his condition:
I want you to come and help my people, but leave me alone.
I know you well enough to know you are going to want to
look at what I do. I am telling you I am not the issue. The
problem is with my people. I am doing all I can do to make
I told him I couldn’t come to his business without studying him. I have found the behavior of all people is consistent with the design of the leadership. People are how they are because of the leader.
For instance, if the leader is not organized, the business will not be organized. If the leader is not calm, the business will not be calm. If the leader doesn’t address issues, the people won’t address issues.
This means there must be clear communication. That means not just talking about issues. Chatting about issues doesn’t resolve them. It just means there will have to be more chatter. Each time you chat about the issue, the emotions just increase.
The issue is discussed and a resolution is agreed on by everyone. This creates a clear agenda. It means there is no confusion at the end of the conversation. Each exits understanding what has been said and what must now be done.
It means there must be trust. It means all people know and feel they can speak the truth without being criticized or punished. Without this feeling among the people, there will not be resolution to anything that is addressed. This means there will be no real communication in the business environment. It means issues will just fester and explode through emotional outbursts.
These emotional outbursts may not be words. They may be expressed through the lack of quality work. Anyway these issues expose themselves, they come out, they will destroy any healthy spirit the company may have. Give the negative an open door and it will race in and control the inner energy of the company. That means the productivity drops.
It means there must be truth at all times. The motto must become, “No games played here.” This means leadership addresses all issues without being fearful of the end result. There are no exceptions made. No person is immune from being confronted.
It means the people in the company can speak what they feel. If they feel they cannot express themselves to leadership, they will have their own group meetings and talk about the issues. The challenge here is this creates the spirit of “us” against “them.” That is dangerous and turns the environment into a battleground of “they are wrong.”
When you look at all this, the key element is trust. It is the most important ingredient. Without trust, there will not be the clear communication. Without trust, people will be afraid to share what they are really feeling. Trust creates the calmness and clarity that must be present to move the environment to the next dimension of productive development.
So, how do you build this environment of trust?
T truth at all times — no games allowed
R respond with positive expressions
U unravel any mistrust
S start conversation with the end in mind — achievement desired
T talk all issues through — don’t leave things hanging
Remember — until there is an environment of trust, the negative people take over the role of leader. Only when there is trust, truth, and clear communication can there be growth.
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