When we are coaching leaders around their role in relation to difficult organisational issues they sometimes say that they can’t tell the truth to the CEO, or to their staff, or maybe their customers. Why? Often it’s because they focus on the perceived consequences rather than what is the right thing to do. So what happens when they don’t speak the truth? Where is their integrity? Steare (2009) identifies integrity as the principle that defines all our other principles. We lose our integrity when we act against our principles. So if I believe that there is a truth that needs to be told and I choose not to tell it – where’s my integrity? And where does responsibility lie when the truth eventually fights its way out – maybe because something big and nasty happens?
Covey talks about telling the truth and leaving the right impression. The key is to be honest, not to manipulate people or distort facts. We know someone who was told that her team was being made redundant and was told not to tell them for several weeks. She thought about this overnight and in the morning she explained that she couldn’t withhold this information from her team – it wasn’t right to go ahead with objective setting for the next year with them knowing what she knew. She didn’t ask for permission to tell the team, she explained why, when and how she was going to tell them. And she did. As a result she could sleep at night because she knew that she had done the right thing. She was also able to do two important things for her team: demonstrate that she trusted them to manage the situation, and support them in working out what they would do next.
She didn’t spin the truth, and she didn’t leave a false impression. She told it straight with sound intentions, and these were heard. No harm was done.
Talk to us about how executive coaching can help you tell the truth early – call Jane on 01462 483798 or email email@example.com