How many times has your colleague or boss asked you to tell them what you REALLY think? Did you believe them or think they were sincere? So, you went ahead and told them what you really thought? Right!!

I'll be the first one to share that there are times when it is wise to hold your tongue or think wisely about the impact of your statements. I am sure nobody intentionally wants to hurt someone's feelings or cause a problem.

Now, here's the BUT . . .

But I can't lie about what is really going on!, or this is the honest thing to say! I agree. BUT, there are ways to and ways not to be a truth-telling
agent in your organization.

Telling the truth in an organization requires 3 things:

1. Tell as soon as you know. Holding on to the truth beyond what makes it useful can become a liability for you. Here's the scenario: your boss is wondering what went wrong. Everyone weighs in with his/her opinions, telling your boss what she wants to hear, sharing what they think will make them look like heroes or eyeing one another and keeping their silence.

No one is saying what really went wrong. The boss then looks for answers elsewhere, possibly blaming another department or making calls to a customer who got their information wrong. After about a week of this, you decide to 'tell the truth' and pinpoint what the problems or disconnects were. You tell your boss this is what should have happened, and how it will be fixed for the next time around.

Do I need to tell you how she will react or respond? She will fly through the roof asking why you didn't speak up sooner! You just lost the opportunity to make your boss look good but, mo re importantly, you didn't do anything to help the situation. Yes, tell the truth as soon as you know!

2. Do what you said you would do when you said you would do it. The road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. Intentions are good BUT (here we go again), they get thin pretty quick. When you say you will do 'this or that,' then DO 'this or that.'

In addition, let people know when 'this or that' has been done. You don't do anyone any favors by not following through, except the person who wants you to fail.

3. Don't try to make bad new sound like good news. For example, "You are fired, but just think, you can now open that dream restaurant that you've wanted to for so long." Doesn't sound good, does it? No.

People do want to hear the truth, even if it hurts but it is honest. People don't like surprises or being told to believe something is great when it's not. I am always pleasantly surprised at how resilient people are, even encouraged, when they get the straight scoop.

That way they dig in, make adjustments and change their course. And they can then trust you. There is a short line between truth and trust.

Telling them the truth gives them that opportunity.

What happens when you don't tell the truth? When people hear the truth from a secondary source they automatically distrust the primary source who should have told them. A great effect is the fact that people's imaginations are usually worse than reality.

Human nature detests a void, so if the truth isn't forthcoming, we 'invent' something to fill that void. Making up the truth or pretending what it is can be worse than knowing the truth.

One important point to make: nobody owns the truth. It can't be painted, twisted, split or turned around. It is what it is.

When you tell the truth, do it with compassion. Effective leaders pursue the truth and know how to explain it to others. Go forward and be a "Truth-Telling" leader!


Search form

From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina