Recently, I’ve been writing about how to build a culture of skillful candor on a team while emphasizing the necessity of courageous listening as a way to increase team learning and lay the foundation for safety. This kind of listening is an important capacity that’s central to a TRUEteam culture. Of equal importance is speaking truthfully.
Think about your communication with team members over the past two weeks. What have you left unsaid? Are you hinting and hoping others will “get it?” Do you ever feel that sharing your perspective is not OK? How often do you remain silent in the face of disappointment, frustration, or disagreement? We often justify our silence or indirectness by telling ourselves:
If I speak up, I’ll hurt his feelings
If I speak my truth it will create too much drama in our relationship
If I challenge this thinking I won’t be seen as a team player
It’s not worth speaking up. It won’t make a difference.
These beliefs cause most people to withhold their truth. Instead expressing themselves with sugar-coating, hinting, workarounds, and silence. Some of the most prominent business disasters – Enron, BP Oil Spill, the junk mortgage crisis are characterized by this type of withholding. In each case, people came forward after the fact and admitted regretfully: “I knew what was about to happen and remained silent.” So, creating a culture in which people speak up in real-time, respectfully, and honestly is not a “nice to have.” It’s imperative.
Truthful speaking has three elements that team members must practice consistently:
1) Candid: You are committed to being honest and saying what is true for you, even when sharing your perspective may feel uncomfortable or controversial. Ask yourself: Did I say what was on my mind and in my heart with honesty and accuracy?
2) Complete: You share all of the information that is relevant and useful in achieving your goal, including your motives for raising the issue. Ask yourself: Did I say everything I needed to say?
3) Considered: You avoid stating your truth (e.g., your perspective, judgments, opinions, etc.) in unequivocal terms. You distinguish facts from interpretations. Ask yourself: Did I own my statements as my point of view, acknowledging that I only see things from where I sit?
How does your speaking measure up against these three elements?