“It’s a fact: People don’t like hearing contradictory or negative information.” —Author Mark Murphy, Truth at Work: The Science of Delivering Tough Messages
Whether you are a leader or employee, it’s critical you learn how to hear and deliver the truth.
If you are like many leaders, your failure to talk straight comes from wanting to be liked more than respected. You tend to gloss over issues out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings, but it’s at everyone else’s expense. The truth is, failure to talk straight will actually cause people to dislike you and distrust you.
The additional challenge is sticking to the facts when your work culture doesn’t support it and wants you to remain silent. However, silence is costly: it can lead to low employee morale, productivity delays, working on bad ideas and customers leaving. It can also cause you to lose your job or derail your career.
Financially successful companies have learned how to tell the truth appropriately. How can you?
How to Stick with the Facts
Deliver Bad News Respectfully. Many leaders only want to hear what they want to hear. Because no one will tell them the truth, they are surprised when competitors overtake them and clients leave. When the work culture is focused on “going along to get along,” it needs to shift so managers learn the importance of how to listen and hear the facts. Otherwise, they will be blindsided.
How to do it:
- -Don’t shoot the messenger—make it easy for others to tell you what is happening.
- -Share bad news by first saying, “I’m pretty sure you’re not going to like what I’m about to say.”
- -Factually fine-tune your message so that the truth is meaningful for your boss (for example, some executives will listen if you talk about the financial loss of a customer, but not if you discuss low employee morale — even though this leads to expensive turnover).
Overcome Fears. Bosses do not like to hear contradictory or negative information. However, safety, health and well-being issues need to be handled regardless of how others feel about operating in a safe manner. Employment and financial problems need to be addressed head on with real information. The courts, Department of Labor and other governmental agencies do not care about the company’s aversion to the truth or the fact that you may have been lucky up to this point.
How to do it:
- -Get real and stick to the facts, even when some co-workers (and bosses) make it difficult.
- -Conduct audits on policies, practices and tools used to ensure your company is in compliance and update them.
- -Address up front the importance of new operating procedures using various communication channels (for example, intra-communications, online and group training, and FAQ boards).
Train for Straight Talk. Many employees and bosses don’t know how to talk straight with one another due to lack of training or a culture that focuses too much on harmony. These poor communication skills often result in miscommunication, lack of clear directives and engaging in poor ethical practices at every level of your organization.
How to do it:
- -Design learning modules that include face-to-face interaction exercises.
- -Include all levels of the company in all training programs.
- -Learn the difference between facts and feelings, opinions and thoughts.
Take Responsibility. Telling the truth when fixing broken systems or handling sensitive employee issues can be challenging. It’s one of the top reasons executives and leaders fail in implementing solutions. This can be due to sacred cows, higher-ups not wanting to rock the boat, employees fearing changes in work responsibilities or reliance on solutions that are not viable.
How to do it:
- -State the facts and review them with your business advisor, CPA or attorney.
- -Document facts and the costs/benefits of potential solutions.
- -Share this information with your boss or board and keep talking until it is resolved.While people are afraid of the truth, you can help them learn to have straight conversations and lead by example.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2017
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Jeannette Seibly has been a business advisor and executive coach for over 24 years; along the way, she’s guided the creation of three millionaires. She is laser sharp at identifying the leverage points that will take a business and its team to the next level of performance and success. She also has extensive experience training leaders to tell the truth and creating strategic solutions for unprecedented results. Check out her website , or contact Jeannette for a free confidential conversation.