Employees Can Handle the Truth: Take an Honest Approach to Leadership

March 18, 2021
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When the going gets tough, there are few things harder than being honest. It's never comfortable to look a difficult situation right in the eye, and for organization leaders, facing adversity is all the more challenging. After all, leaders have to communicate problems to business partners, shareholders, and employees, which can be a tense and problematic process. Learning how to effectively guide a team in these circumstances is critical, and that means executives must participate in leadership development training to cultivate strong strategies.

Galvanizing the workforce through honesty

If staff members don't know what's happening in their company, they can't play an active role in helping the business reach its full potential. Once team members fully understand what they're up against, they can begin to brainstorm innovative tactics and plans for overcoming barriers. If leaders have hired capable individuals within their teams, they should show their confidence that those people can handle any business issue thrown their way.

Honesty is an essential component of motivating employees to solve complex and even frightening problems. A great example – from several years ago but still applicable – is when John Emery, CEO of Emery Worldwide, realized that the firm's stock had fallen around the same time as he was filming a company-wide video update, he decided to address the problem frankly instead of mask it. The source noted that Emery spoke truthfully about what had happened and asked the team to help him in turning these negative results around.

Some leaders might be afraid that being honest would backfire and inspire fear, but for Emery, the effect was quite the opposite. The news provider pointed out that after staff members saw the plea for help, they started enthusiastically developing solutions. Emery's choice to simply tell the truth resonated with his workers and made them want to play a role in the business' success.

The connection to integrity and it's importance

Jack Welch, the former Chairman & CEO of GE, believes that if you are afraid of openness, you don't have what it takes to be an effective leader. Further, he believes that avoiding the truth or lacking integrity means you'll eventually be surrounded by yes people who simply say what you want to hear.

Leaders must build, maintain, and emphasize a culture of integrity and honesty on their teams. This starts from the top; hold yourself to the same standards of honesty as you do your team members. Own up to your mistakes in full view of your team, demonstrating that errors are good if they are acknowledged, corrected, and lessons are learned from them. Lastly, highlight the importance of honesty over harmony, appearances, or any other secondary concern.

Openness is vital to building relationships

When the leaders of organizations are honest about their needs, they have the chance to leave a lasting impression on their staff members. Leaders who approach their employees with genuineness and humility may be able to instill a sense of camaraderie that is nearly impossible to achieve without some level of vulnerability. Through leadership development training, executives can discover their potential to communicate more openly with their teams about hard matters, leading to a more unified, successful team and organization.

Unfortunately, honesty is not always the easiest path, but there is no other way to build trust and credibility over the long (and short) term. As self-development author and speaker Brian Tracy wrote, "There should be no exceptions to honesty and integrity." They are the authentic marks of leadership. Let a culture of honesty help you build relationships with your team members and be an inspiration, motivator, and confidence booster to them.