Over 70% of employees admit they don’t fully trust leadership to tell the truth. The most common reason? The feeling that leadership is sugarcoating the facts.
The desire to shield people from bad news or negative feedback often springs from pure intentions; we want to help people stay positive, and so we avoid talking about anything that might bring spirits down. Of course, staying positive is important. However, a positive attitude does not mean putting on rose-colored glasses and ignoring reality. That’s the definition of delusion and only leads to mistrust.
To have a positive attitude is just the opposite. It means we face bad news head-on but remain optimistic we’ll find a way through/over/around the current challenge, regardless of what that challenge may be. To paraphrase Admiral James Stockdale, it means to “face the brutal facts but never give up hope.”
Leaders committed to building high-trust cultures understand this and don’t shy away from straight talk, both in discussing problems and giving much needed feedback to others. Not only do they model the way, but they hold others accountable to do the same.
Here’s what it looks like:
I confront the facts as they are, not as I want them to be
I engage others in “straight talk” about the brutal facts
I take 100% responsibility for how I’m going to respond to those facts
I stay positive, never giving up hope
I focus on solutions that will move us forward
The fruit of practicing straight talk is increased trust, commitment and a culture that’s agile enough to respond quickly and positively to changing circumstances.
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