Leadership Lessons: What Matters When You Tell The Truth

Tell the truth

Summary: In this era of social media excess, where everyone can offer their version of what is truth without fact-checking, it’s time for critical thinking to stop the dysfunction of speaking without considering the consequences of our words.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I have a question for you.

Question: How many business coaches does it take to help a leader change their mind?

Don’t bother spending time thinking about your response. I’ll give you the answer.

Answer: Only ONE, as long as the leader wants to change!

Now my more critical questions:

  1. Who are the role models for us to observe and absorb the power of telling the truth?
  2. Why do so many get away with half-truths and lies and stay in positions of power?
  3. How can hearing and telling the truth help us change our minds?

I am intrigued by the truth-telling area because of the book “The Spare” by Prince Harry and the known mistruths of George Santos, newly appointed to The US House of Representatives.

Telling the truth is NOT spilling your guts or leaving out vital facts.

I watch as more and more people at work only tell a watered-down version of why a project is taking so long to finish. Or perhaps omit the “why” they endured an extra day of vacation and insisted it was PTO.

Even more, is the willingness to point fingers or blame others with no accountability for their role in a challenging situation.

I’d love your thoughts on why the truth looks so different depending on who is telling it.

And if there are ways you know to help people change their minds and admit their way of seeing the truth may not be the only way.


Determined To Tell The Truth

Dear Determined,

Firstly, your first question is similar to an old joke about therapists and lightbulbs. As a therapist who morphed into a leadership coach, I have heard this repeatedly.

It goes like this: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: only one, so long as the light bulb wants to be changed.

The truth has the power to change minds for the better.

Now, let’s look at the power of truth to help someone change their mind.

What matters is to get to the core of the root causes of why some individuals manipulate the truth to their advantage.

Why do some individuals push our buttons while someone else, saying almost the same thing, gets praise?

How can this be?

It is a matter of old memories getting stirred up. It is as simple and as complex as that. Here is the essence of what you need to know.

Memories get stored in our brains. We all know that. And while we know they can be lying there mostly asleep for much of our lives, something or someone will often be the stimulus to awaken that sleeping beauty or giant.

There are important reasons why different people will cause us to listen to or ignore what they say.

For example, if Sam comes into your office with a bright idea and he does not rub you like sandpaper, you will listen and acknowledge it. However, if Stuart comes in with basically the same argument, you may start to feel your blood pressure go up and want him out of your office.

Here is an important point: It may not be the person in front of you; it may be something else.

What is the difference?

Memory. Stuart may remind you way too much of your older brother Tom who was always attempting to grab the spotlight and make you look like a dunce. (This is how Prince Harry talks about his older brother William).

The memory sets sparked, and feelings are evoked, not so much about Stuart, but about your brother, who still cannot refrain from doing a one-up with you when there are family gatherings.

OK, you can see that. The big question is what to do about it.

Well…leaders who want to up their game would then find time for a conversation with Brother Tom.

I don’t mean write a book and tell all the negatives that happened. I mean, sit down, just the two of you (best with a mediator or coach), and share your specific perspectives of “the truth.”

How you tell the truth has everything to do with how you react at work.

I have seen this over and over. Once the leader takes the lead and talks to the person who sparked the memory, something magical happens.

Well, maybe not magical. However, it looks that way from out here.

For example, the situation with brother Tom often improves because of the fresh air allowed into the relationship. The one who instituted the conversation (you, the leader) feels better, and your brother is grateful. Now family gatherings can be more relaxed.

And what about Stuart? His ideas may or may not be significant. However, he does not trigger you like he used to, and maybe you can find parts of his ideas that will lead to a business home run.

Is it worth the effort?

I say yes, and if you have someone from your past who drives you nuts get some coaching and read my book “Don’t Bring It To Work.” It is my way of helping make this world more positive and work more productive.

Regarding who are the role models for good truth-telling, I’d say how about YOU as you learn what part of the truth is the most important to bring into any conversation.

Here’s to your success,


PS. Next week I will give some guidelines about listening for the truth and telling the truth without spilling your guts.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options