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Is your leadership suffering from a lack of candor?

"...I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business."  Jack Welch,  Winning

 Today I had a conversation with a co-worker about one of the biggest problems we find in most organizations that we consult with. This stumbling block for many leaders is a lack of candor from the leadership teams. As I reflected on this issue throughout the evening I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the largest problems in leadership today. I have seen this problem in large companies, small companies and non-profits alike.

Jack Welch is the best at communicating on this issue that I have read. In his book, Winning, he devotes an entire chapter to the subject. I would highly recommend reading his treatment of candor.

Here are some of the highlights Jack details on the subject:

  • I underestimated the rarity of candor.
  • Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they've got.
  • When you have candor everything happens better and faster.
  • Candor is not malevolent dishonesty.
  • Lack of candor is not expressing yourself with frankness.
  • Lack of candor is not communicating straightforwardly or not putting forth ideas looking to stimulate real debate.
  • Lack of candor is when people withhold comments or criticism.
  • Lack of candor results in people keeping their mouths shut in order to make people feel better or to avoid conflict.
  • Lack of candor results in people sugar-coating bad news in order to maintain appearances.
  • Lack of candor damages organizations because it results in people keeping things to themselves, hoarding information.

Jim Collins also addresses the need for a culture of candor in his book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. He calls this process, confronting the brutal facts.

Collins teaches us that all good to great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts about the reality of their organization. When you determine the truth of your situation, the right decisions often become self-evident. It is impossible to make good decisions without infusion an honest confrontation of the brutal facts. A primary task in taking a company from good to great is to create a culture where people have the opportunity to be heard and ultimately the truth to be heard.

Winston Churchill created a Statistical Office, with the primary function of feeding him continuously and completely unfiltered the most brutal facts of reality.

 Leadership does not begin with just a vision. It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and act on the implications.

Our inability to provide honest, timely feedback to our team members is a huge disservice to them and it creates a great liability for us as leaders. When we fail to have the tough conversations when our team members are not meeting expectations we fail them as leaders. We fail ourselves and our teams as well. We hamper the effectiveness and health of our organizations.

What are some of the reasons for this lack of candor?

  • Fear: Do you fear backlash from a tough conversation?
  • Confrontation Avoidance: Do you avoid confrontation at all cost?
  • Ignorance: Are you aware of the need for the proper use of candor in your leadership tool box?
  • Apathy: Do you care enough to be candid with your team?
  • Laziness: Are you simply too lazy to do the work to develop a culture of candor?
  • Unclear Expectations: Have you as the leader failed to set clear expectations?
  • Communication Skills: Do you have the communication skills needed to deliver candor in an effective manner?
  • Time & Energy: Candor takes effort, are you willing to invest the time and energy to deliver candid feedback?
  • Short Term Thinking: Are you worried more about the short-term results of your organization than the long-term development of your team members?

Let me know your thoughts on developing a culture of candor.

  • Does your organization exhibit a culture of candor? If so, how did you establish it?
  • Do you see this as a large leadership issue in many organizations?
  • What damage have you seen in your organization or other organizations as a result of a lack of candor?


Be Candid! Let me know what you think about this subject!


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