Sincere honesty should come more easily, but I understand why it’s often tough. We live with masks mostly permanently affixed to our face. Showing the world what we want them to see. Saying things we know the world wants to hear. Fooling ourselves into claiming we’re being polite. Or positive.
Candor is tough because of judgment. We fret about what people will think. Here’s where we get it wrong…we think people want polite lies more than they want sincere honesty. There are so many problems with that. Dishonesty being up near the top. How is dishonesty a good strategy for life?
I’m not talking about being rude or obnoxious. This isn’t about leaving tact behind. Quite the opposite, it’s about raising your emotional intelligence! Elevating your awareness and empathy.
People too frequently define candor as being able to tell people bad things, or negative things. WRONG! It’s being able to tell people the truth. It’s letting go of insincerity, fluff and bull. It’s compassion, empathy and caring.
Let me explain by talking about corrective employee discipline because this is where it often comes up in my conversations with CEOs and other top-level leaders.
Question: Do you think it’s fair or honest to terminate an employee who doesn’t see it coming?
Don’t be so fast to answer. Think about it. Then think about how you want to answer compared to the reality inside your company. Yes, every HR professional will push you to document, document, document. And to put employees on a PIP (performance improvement plan). Let’s assume you do all that as you should in order to protect yourself legally.
But I’m not talking about your legal obligations. Those are a given. I’m talking about moral obligations, actions you take because it’s the right thing to do. I’m talking about CANDOR, sincere honesty.
It’s too easy to be a coward. To avoid a confrontation, that’s the word I usually hear whenever I bring up the topic of “candor.” Curious, isn’t it? Did you think of “confrontation” when you heard me first say “candor”?
Now we’re getting to the heart of why candor is so absent in companies. We’ve got it all twisted around. Are our lives so absent of sincere honesty that we think to deploy it would result in an immediate confrontation? That’s just plain sad!
But if it does, so what? You don’t want your sincere honesty to be questioned? Aren’t you prepared to explain it, or defend it – if you must?
Let’s take the employee on a PIP. Does the employee realize the severity of their circumstance? You can convince yourself, “Well, they should see it.” Or, you can make sure with candor!
For me, this is not difficult stuff because of my view of leadership. SERVICE.
As the owner, your job is to serve the people who work inside your company. Stick with the illustration of the employee on an improvement plan. They’re quickly headed toward being dismissed. Maybe that’s not been explicitly communicated. If you’re going to serve them well, you’ll have to make sure they know how serious things are. Like the late-night infomercial announcers say…but wait a minute, there’s more! Don’t they deserve to know what they must do to turn things around so they can maintain employment? Of course, they do.
Enter the need for CANDOR.
Every leader I know is preoccupied with “employee engagement.” You know what drives employee engagement? One thing. And only one thing. Leaders who care. Leaders who care about the people they’re worried about being engaged. If leaders don’t care about people, people know it. They will not be engaged. I don’t care how many consulting companies you bring in to perform 360 reviews or any other tactics or tricks. Won’t work. Won’t stick. Save your money. And everybody’s time. You’ll garner more respect by continuing to not care about people and stop faking like you do. People would respect you more if you told them, “Listen, I don’t care about you people. I only care about our revenues and profits so I can afford a fancier lifestyle. If you wanna work for somebody who is going to care about you as a human being, then you’re at the wrong place!” You could at least be guilty of candor instead of hypocrisy.
A better strategy for employee engagement and effective leadership is to genuinely care about your employees. But if you’re a miserable human being, that’s not going to happen…so deploy whatever tactic you want. Good people won’t stick around so I don’t worry about them. The bad people will stick around so you’ll both be getting what you deserve. It’s those marginal people who worry me…the people who could be better if you were a decent boss. A boss who cared enough to deploy candor. Who saw the value of sincere honesty as opposed to insincere dishonesty.
But you’re better than that. You’re just likely afraid that candor won’t work because you’ve predetermined how it’s going to go. I’m not going to tell you to trust me. I’m going to tell you to trust candor. Trust honesty. Mostly, trust that if you care about people – your people doing the work you need done – then candor is your best friend. It will change your world for the better. And it will serve your people better than anything else you could do.
We’re honest with people we love. Do you love your employees? If you do, then act like it. Tell them the truth. Share with them all that you can while still protecting them. Don’t lay on them anything beyond their ability to control, or to contribute toward. We love our children, but no matter how old they are we don’t want to burden them with things they can do nothing about. Yet, we want their support and we want to make sure we’re supporting them.
Mutual respect. Mutual concern. Mutual compassion.
You want the truth. You need the truth. Who’s the leader? YOU.
Then start delivering the truth. Don’t confuse candor with harshness or anger. Remember, candor is sincere honesty! SINCERE. That means it’s genuine. It’s free from deceit. It’s filled with honest intentions. It’s service. It’s the stuff of leadership.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!