The Biblical ‘the truth will set you free’ should be engraved in corporate walls, next to the values. And in corporate live, it should be accompanied by ‘speaking up will also set you free’.
Nobody says that you can’t choose the time and place to speak up. Honest martyrs may not do a lot of good to corporate life. Your emotional and social intelligence will help you to understand the context of things, and speak up so that you may be heard better. But in the long run, there is no alternative but standing for the truth and for the authentic.
Nassim Taleb has a much-quoted saying: ‘If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud’. Swap fraud for other things such as disingenuity, half truths and any other twist of reality to accommodate the discussion. In the short, medium, long run, the truth and the open speaking up will set the organization free.
Call failure a failure, success a success. Be clear on accountability, on promises kept or not, on direct communication versus gossip, on noise versus signal. Don’t mistake ‘open’ and ‘direct’ with being unnecessarily blunt and provocative, for the sake of it. Challenge platitudes (‘this failure is a lack of leadership, good leadership will makes us succeed’), sweeping generalizations (‘people don’t understand the strategy’) and grenade-statements (‘some members of the management team don’t follow the values’). Ask who, when, what, why.
The worse of organizational sins is the widespread nodding or silence at the meeting followed by ‘how stupid this is’ in the men rooms, or lady rooms, or the cafeteria. Make the point that what needs to be said must be said now, not later; in public, not in private. If this is impossible, it is because the culture is damaged. If the above is truly unthinkable and the truth always comes in the corridor or outside the toilets, you have a very serious cultural problem.
As leader, you can’t dictate honesty and speaking up. However you can declare it ‘non negotiable’ and you can show that it can be done by you exercising it all the time.
Speak up, request others to do so. Make it comfortable by starting it yourself, and then following it up with yourself, and yourself again. The rest will follow. The goal is to make all those alternative views only expressed later, in private, in the corridor, redundant.
If you see fraud, bad thinking, disingenuity, half truths, half saying, platitudes and swiping statements, call them out. Don’t do it and you will regret it later.
Actually, it’s not that difficult. Sentences start with what, who, when, why. Also, ‘this is not how I see it’. Also ‘please elaborate’.
If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud