5 Steps to Developing a More Candid Organization
My last post discussed the multitude of problems that arise from a lack of candor in organizations. But simply asking people to be more candid without a supporting organizational culture is futile.
The concept of candor is simple, but being honest inside of organizations is difficult. It’s hard because you are fighting against human nature and established organizational behaviors. People avoid conflict, engage in groupthink, tell their bosses what they think they want to hear, withhold feedback, hoard information, and ignore reality when it’s staring them in the face.
To overcome these natural tendencies, leaders need to make a conscious decision to promote straight talk and create a culture of candor.
Candor is one of the critical behaviors that determine the effectiveness of leaders and businesses. Straightforwardness in an organization should not just be supported and encouraged but required. Here are five steps to help develop an organization that interacts more candidly at all levels:
1. Make Candor an Organizational Value
One of the cornerstones of leadership is creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted. A culture must be created where people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard, which ultimately leads to the truth being heard. If you want people to be candid and straightforward remind them every single day that candor is the rule, not the exception.
2. Model Candor
If you want to create a culture of candor, start with your own behavior. Tell everyone the same unvarnished truth. Learn to deliver bad news and don’t shy away from conflict. Deal with the problems that must be dealt with. Admit your mistakes and give everyone around you permission to do the same. And share information freely – unless there’s a real reason you shouldn’t. A leader must never avoid candidness when it is necessary and productive. Once you develop the reputation for straight talk, others will follow.
3. Set the Stage
Clarify how to disagree with one another. Set the ground rules for disagreement, including when it is acceptable, and how best to express it. People need to know how and when to have candid conversations that question assumptions, provoke learning, resolve tough challenges, and improve relationships.
If you want people to give their opinions, ask for them. Nothing encourages honesty and candor like a genuine interest in the ideas and opinions of people throughout the organization. Create opportunities for people to express their opinions, to be heard, and be taken seriously.
5. Reward Candid Behavior
Punishing people for speaking up is the fastest way to kill the spirit of open communication and honest debate in an organization. Instead, encourage and reward messengers for delivering bad news or contrary opinions. You reinforce the behaviors you reward. If you reward straight talk, you’ll get it.
There’s a simple truth in business: The things that get talked about in an organization and how they get talked about determine what will happen. Or won’t happen.
It takes time and effort to build a candid organization, but it’s a challenge every leader should welcome.
Are you and those around you openly discussing the most important issues? Or is lack of candor putting your success at risk?
If you like this post, you may also like: Are You a Candid Leader?