Candor Makes Business Work Better

April 10, 2015 | Roger and Susie Engelau

Candor:  Dispensing with phoniness

The lack of candor is “one of the most common and destructive problems in business, and in society, for that matter—“  That’s what Jack Welch said in Winning: The Answers.  I often see a lack of candor as a business coach we well as in family matters, church activities, and social settings.

I recently received a phone call from a sobbing employee who was “getting the idea that” her boss was unhappy with her performance and in fact, had been dissatisfied with it for a number of years. “Why didn’t someone tell me?!“ she cried.  My heart went out to her.

My wife runs the annual garage sale at church. One year they unknowingly sold a rug that worship leaders had purchased for Sunday service. A full 18 months later my wife learned, only by accident, that the rug had been inadvertently sold. If someone had been candid about the honest mistake my wife and her team had made, it would’ve prevented them from also mistakenly selling a nice leather briefcase belonging to a church member in the following year’s garage sale!

At one of my manufacturing clients, a group of 3 siblings was surprised to learn that the youngest sister wanted to succeed their mother as head of the company.  It was only as they were on the verge of selling the company in the belief that no one in the family wanted to run it that the youngest sibling final spoke up saying, “I’ve always experienced our family culture as one where we couldn’t say how we really feel.” A near upheaval averted because she finally got the courage to speak her mind.

Lack of candor prevents meaningful discussions about urgent matters. It erodes decision-making around the use of precious company resources and it undermines performance evaluations. Willingness to be candid is perhaps the worst, and ironically the most important, when it comes to letting employees know about needed changes in their performance.

It’s your obligation as a leader to let people know where they stand.

Being candid and being nice are one and the same

It isn’t “being nice” to let someone suffer along day after day getting signals from co-workers or constituents that they’re being ineffective, seeing the occasional disappointed looks from you, or suffering through phony, drawn-out, beat-around-the-bush discussions that set off their BS detectors and leave them guessing at what might be the problem. It’s especially painful for employees who like to please people.

All situations will simply be better if you’re candid.

As the leader of your organization, you set the standard. People watch what you do and emulate it. You have only one option—start being candid today. Decide in favor of being candid in all your dealings and commit to it.

You’ll save yourself and everyone around you tons of time. You’ll earn even deeper respect. Most importantly, people around you will feel confident, clear, flattered that you believed in their ability to handle tough information, and honored that you valued them enough to be straight with them.

It’s not easy. Try these three simple ways to dispense with the mixed messages and deliver direct messages that are kind and succinct.