Ask your five-year-old what she thinks of your new haircut, and she won’t hesitate to tell you it looks funny. But your fifth-grader? He’s more likely to tell his best friend about his dad’s dorky new ‘do than be honest with you.
Unfortunately, being “polite” rather than candid isn’t just a grade school phase. In my experience as a consultant, a lack of candor is as common in the conference room as it is in the classroom.
I’m not alone. In Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor, Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, James O’Toole, and Patricia Ward Biederman explore the bottom-line consequences for businesses when employees don’t disclose important information to managers.
“No matter the official line, true transparency is rare,” write the authors. “Many organizations pay lip service to values of openness and candor, even writing their commitment into mission statements. Too often these are hollow … [and] followers are all too aware of a very different organizational reality.”
Most of us are wary of opening up, even to close friends, never mind to colleagues during staff meetings. We view vulnerability as a weakness and often keep our opinions to ourselves, fearful of having them rejected, or worse. Yet failing to be up front and straightforward can have huge consequences.
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