How good are you are telling the truth? Think about it for a minute. Where do you hold back to be polite? Or when do you shrug and say “Whatever” rather than let your underlying feelings out?
Telling truth to power is not for wimps. It takes great courage to stay strong and speak out.
What do you do when it’s time, to tell the truth in a situation when emotions run high? Look, it’s easy to go online and fact check just about anything. And all excellent leadership development programs focus on making sure you have the facts straight when you do a presentation or go in for your performance review.
When emotions run high, that’s where the stakes are even higher when telling the truth may be difficult and can even cost you a job or a relationship.
Please hear me:
Telling the truth is not spilling your guts!
It takes discipline to say what you mean without defending, blaming or justifying. This is the way of the most powerful and respected leaders today.
Here are some things to remember as you gain the courage, to tell the truth effectively.
- Observe: Socialization is one reason most of us shy away from being totally honest. At home and in school you were taught to be polite and proper or you would get in trouble, sent to your room or to the principal’s office.
- Understand: Some people annoy you more than others and you need to find out what pushes your buttons. The route to eternal truth-telling begins with searching for internal truth. You need to check out the defensive patterns that developed as a means of self -protection.
- Transform: Learn to ask before you talk, listen before you respond. Take the high road rather than attack. This takes discipline and an ability to look at the interactions rather than just your point of view.
Here is an example of appropriate truth-telling that happened when we were consulting with a sales team. This was a particularly tense meeting where the leader was ready to bring her internal learning about herself to the test of external validation.
The group was at a stalemate on how to improve sales. The air in the room was heavy. The lack luster performance had led to constant bickering and blaming. The VP of Sales simply said “Stop” and all eyes focused on their boss. Joyce’s voice sounded tense as she began to talk. Her sentences were short as she pulled them from the internal truths she now wanted to express.
“As I checked from every angle to analyze why sales are stale I automatically blamed you, my leadership team. That is an old pattern of mine, to blame others when things go wrong. Then, based on the coaching I have been receiving, I had to zero in closer to home, to address what made me so uncomfortable. I realized I was taking on too many high-profile projects that kept me from what was really important, guiding and supporting you. I have begun the process of making adjustments, so I can devote more time to what you want and need from me. I’m ready to hear from you now.”
Truth is riveting. It was quiet in the room, until someone said, “Thank you.” When the team reconvened after a much-needed break, the renewed energy was palpable. Ideas were smarter, collaboration freer, action plans faster.
To sum up: We all yearn for relationships that exhibit truth. That is the foundation of trust. Whether we are ready and willing to externalize our truths, we still would rather be in the atmosphere that makes it possible to speak out in an honest way. The best leadership development is to learn to take our internal truths and find the most appropriate way to be open and honest, as Joyce was able to do with her team.
I hope this gives you the courage to explore your own path to truth.