Sunday, November 20, 2005

To thine own self (and team) be Candid!

Did you ever stop to wonder about those old standards they taught us when we were kids…. "Honesty is the best policy", "do unto others"…, and my all time favorite, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”?

There is a common and growing school of thought that we learned all the important stuff when we were in kindergarten. I believe that is absolutely true.

Let’s take one of these little gems as an example and I’ll prove my point…..

Honesty is the best policy. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s a simple statement - Don’t lie! Anyone should be able to comply with that one, but in the context of adults conducting business it seems we just can’t keep it that simple.

While we muse about it being a "kindergarten rule", we can see outstanding cases where people who practice it and demand it of those around them have excelled. Take a look around you – see the best and brightest people you know. I’ll bet you can associate a number of words with them; dedicated, driven, diligent, smart and somewhere in that list will be honest. Let’s face it, there are those among us who are successful but not honest – just watch and you'll see where those people end up over the years. The folks who keep faith with the truth always achieve better success in the long run. Whether you view Jack Welsh as a great or terrible leader, you have to appreciate the benefits his drive for candor has netted for GE.

Yes, I know the objections – it’s a “Dilbert” world out there full of pointy haired imbecilic, bureaucrat bosses who would rather eat a dirt-sandwich than hear the truth…. BUT in the end, the truth will outlast bureaucracy, poor management and even stupidity.

So how do you take this little bit of wisdom into your world – simple… Be Candid! Tell people what you think. But remember that candor and politeness are not mutually exclusive – you can (and should) tell the truth in a way that is not a reproach, not condemning and not “holier than thou”. Nobody likes that stuff.

Candor in the workplace starts with simple things. It starts between you and your people – your team. Being candid with them builds trust, improves communication and sets an example that cannot be denied. The double –whammy is that in being candid, you demonstrate a behavior you want them to emulate and they feel more obliged to emulate it because you have shown them your honest conviction to being candid! Wow… talk about a case of leading by example!

Note that I didn’t say that you should run out and be honest with the boss about that terrible toupee…. that is a lesson for another day. However, you can start to provide candid feedback up and down your org-chart today by sharing your views in a polite and respectful way. People may not agree with you, but if you deliver your candid feedback properly, at least they wont hate you and at best, they will respect you for being sticking you candid with them.

I can say with absolute honesty, it has been my pleasure to post this and I look forward to your candid feedback to help me improve this blog to make it a more useful point of reference on your management journey.

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