Are You a Candid Leader?
Within high-growth companies, one of the greatest challenges is having difficult conversations with clarity, ease, and effectiveness. Too many people struggle with how to say no, give constructive criticism, address performance issues, speak up in meetings, or confront interpersonal problems.
Picture yourself stuck in another pointless meeting where no one in the room says the things that need to be said. Slide after mind-numbing slide fails to break any new ground. Despite the facts that are staring everyone right in the face, no one presents a serious challenge. It’s all quite diplomatic as participants nod in apparent agreement to everything they hear.
Meanwhile, your head is about to explode. You’re thinking to yourself, “Here we go again. No wonder growth is slowing, we’re not seeing anything we don’t already know.” You look over at Jim and Susan – you know they feel the same way you do. The three of you have talked about it many times before – in the meeting after the meeting – where the real conversations take place. The real conversation is candor.
How would that meeting be different, if you, Jim or Susan took responsibility for speaking up and asking tough questions? Imagine the power that probing and thoughtful questions would have to change this fruitless meeting into a real conversation – one that generates impactful ideas and solutions.
Unfortunately, too many leaders don’t value candor, communicate straightforwardly, or put ideas on the table in order to stir real debate. Instead, they avoid conflict and never say what needs to be said. They don’t engage in candid conversations because it’s easier not to. They suppress any urge to provide comments or criticism because doing so can be awkward and messy. And they soften bad news so things appear better than they really are.
The absence of candor creeps into every aspect of business. In particular, the lack of straight talk is pervasive in meetings of every type – whether they’re about financial results, strategy, a line of business, or someone’s performance.
The desire to avoid conflict is human nature, but it represents one of the most significant obstacles to success for leaders and businesses. Lack of candor slows everything down, leads to bad decisions, and unresolved problems. When candor is absent finger pointing, mistrust, misrepresentations, manipulations, misinterpretations, assumptions, accusations, frustration, bureaucracy, and a CYA mentality fill the void. An overly polite veneer often hides an organization consumed with internal politics, phoniness, gossip, and backstabbing. In organizational cultures where honesty is the exception, unnecessary meetings, second-guessing, individual agendas, information hoarding, and high turnover are the rule.
Lack of candor exacts a heavy price: The things that need to be heard never are.
What gets talked about in an organization and how it gets talked about determines what will happen. Or won’t happen.
Candor is the cornerstone of great leadership, healthy cultures, intelligent strategies, and committed execution. To be candid means to be authentic, present, and real in daily conversations. Yet, it’s the unreal or missing conversations that are costly – in terms of morale, engagement, and performance. Candor is critical to individual and organizational success.
Candid leadership is confronting reality, seeing the world realistically, being truthful with yourself and others and acting accordingly.
Candid leadership is a way of communicating that solves problems in a respectful, efficient, and impactful way. It’s real conversations. Nowhere is clear and open communication more important than in growing companies. Candid leaders create the openness that allows people to put their views on the table and explore different, even uncomfortable, perspectives. When an organization is open, problems don’t go unresolved. And ideas and solutions are debated, improved, and acted upon.
Candid leadership allows tensions to surface and then resolves them by expressing relevant points of view. Candid leadership gets more people involved in the business, and when you get more meaningful contributions you get better results.
Strategies and initiatives, projects and programs, partnerships and relationships all require collaboration and commitment that can only be gained through candid conversations.
The goal of candid leadership is to allow both you and those around you to excel by being real. And it is the concept of candor that is critical here. Candor is not something that can be turned on and off; rather, it’s a personal value that is expressed in who you are and how you work with other people.
Candor may be an unnatural act. It can be awkward, messy, and uncomfortable. But the absence of candor is far more debilitating to an organization than the temporary discomfort that may come with candid conversations.
Are you being real with your employees, customers, investors, even yourself? Or do you avoid situations that might become uncomfortable?
If you like this post, you may also like: 5 Steps to Developing a More Candid Organization