Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Seek Inspiration!

November 19, 2015

authenticstamp

People inspire and sometimes, disappoint. I’ve been especially touched by these examples*:

  • A seasoned foundation executive who eschews misuse of power, develops new talent and prefers evidence to gossip. She shows me quiet confidence.
  • A couple who saw my need and quickly offered to share their home. They show me generosity.
  • A vibrant corporate retiree deeply informed by the chaos of war he experienced at a too-young age. This man  consistently offers kindness, insight, tolerance, wisdom and vision that transcends the urgent now. He encourages me to consider multiple perspectives.
  • A capable professional and fierce mother who fought relentlessly to develop a unique treatment that saved her child’s life. She shows me endurance.
  • An experienced civic leader with terrific inter-personal skills and great respect for others closes his notes with “peace.” He offers me calm in choppy waters.
  • A gracious lady recalls a deep misunderstanding that decades ago broke a vibrant relationship and sent her regrets. She demonstrates integrity.
  • A random victim of a merciless beating who was left for dead and endured years of difficult rehabilitation to simply walk and talk again. This man has  forgiven those who hurt him and altered his life. Now, he provides savvy advice, kind encouragement and important leadership to his family, church and community. He shows me resilience.
  • A  principled lawyer challenges corruption. She demonstrates resolve by speaking truth to power.

Costly Disappointments

With sadness, I could share a long rift of situations where people have deeply disappointed. People with ignorant, rigid, inflexible perspectives that play “keep away,” discard others and are self-absorbed. Those who provide examples of insecure and fearful actions that exclude talented, ethical resources. Those who manipulate, deceive and support unjust practices that assure the status quo and perpetuate politics. People who assure their friends get big favors. On any given workday, we each see and live these disappointments. These attitudes and actions represent enormous opportunity cost.

Internal Compass

We know authentic leaders make choices that inspire. They are learners, not knowers. They assure that power serves: others and those most vulnerable. They rebound. These characteristics are what endure and what engenders credibility. These features attract others. These are the people who support progress. It’s this conduct that supports high functioning partnerships, teams, coalitions and networks.

The attitudes and behaviors we can most influence are our own. Authentic leaders are driven by an internal compass that reflects key values. Although I make mistakes, I know my intentions: competence, candor, courage and compassion.

Who inspires you?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com *This post recognizes, with gratitude, MS, Ks, TSK, KA, TP, TC, PJW, TM.

 

House of Cards

April 12, 2015

CardHouse

Tell the truth. This is the advice your parents gave you when you were five. They insisted on it or there were consequences. It’s a good idea, regardless of your age, because it has everything to do with progress. It does, however, require courage.

Like temperature is to fever, truth is to organizational health.  We see this all the time  where people gather in organizations and communities. Safe space for truth is “permitted” by powerful people and the routine level of tolerance becomes a norm.

Skillful leaders interrogate reality and engage multiple opinions, they value insights beyond or different from their own. They recognize arguments by detractors, minority opinions and others’ experience. They know these are all vital to informed decisions and learning. They are aware of their own blind spots. Many people in key jobs don’t proceed this way. They require loyalty, no matter how foolish or nonsensical the party line and exclude or otherwise squash any deviance.

Marketing or Reality

The essential problem with this is that experienced people know the variations in the truth fall in two big camps: marketing and reality. The former weighs politics far more than the latter which is aimed at performance. Marketing or the “official truth” is a constructed notion that all is well. It is the party line that ignores the smoldering fires. It only allows heroes and never recognizes wrongs, errors, mischief or corruption. You find out about truth later when there’s a big spill, investigative journalism, a lawsuit or gossip. Marketing doesn’t expect anyone to think.

The common clever ways to manage information for advantage include: withholding, obfuscating, avoiding, reframing or twisting the script. Depending on core values, people cope with this in different ways. It has certain ethical dimensions.  Unfortunately, when people change the story to suit their own purposes there is real cost. Feeding a narrative that’s at odds with the facts has consequence. Research shows when issues get ignored then there is erosion in staff confidence, compliance, productivity, safety and legal concerns, as well as damage to brand, vendor relations, trust and other factors.

In contrast, grounded truth reflects ugly reality, unpleasant news and a whole picture that includes flaws, bumps and deficits. Looking at the truth means thinking must happen. When we and others start thinking then we can co-create great efforts to fix what needs a fix.

Messengers & Silent Good People

Very capable, honest people can get hurt in the space between marketing and truth. To deflect substance, dysfunctional organizations take aim at the messenger versus the message. Instead, there ought to be someone asking: What about these serious concerns?

Martin Luther King said: “We will have to repent not merely for our vitriolic words and actions of bad people…but for the appalling silence of good people.” When reality isn’t permitted, then threats and opportunities, and simple information sharing and integration aren’t either. We know it is a foundational error to have inadequate situational analysis. Without it, the rest of your edifice gets shaky. So, if strategy is weak from the get go and trust takes a beating, there’s big trouble. In their absence, you are likely to add bad execution to weak strategy. The net is a virtual house of cards.

You are a lot older than five. So,  tell the truth and welcome it warmly from others.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Truth Telling

November 17, 2013

Nicholson

When intentionally seeking candor, people often invite commentary with: “Don’t sugarcoat it.”

While you consider the risk of a reply, your mind recalls Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. His raging declaration was:“You can’t handle the truth.”

Try Truth: Kill Politics

Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch NY, believes we can all be more effective with a little more honesty. She says the lack of politics at her current employer was a huge attraction. This translates to a practice she calls “front-stabbing.” It is a refreshing contrast to back-stabbing.  DiFebo says the culture she tries to foster is transparent: “When you have a problem with someone you just say: Look, this is the issue I have. I can get past it but what are you going to do to get past it? It just puts everything on the table and makes it so much easier to get your work done.”

Quality Reflection

Importantly, negative feedback doesn’t need to be a judgment on your skills or intellect. Simply, it can be a reaction to the quality of work. None of us does perfect work all the time. Most of us learners   want to make contributions and do better. Leaders and managers have a responsibility to provide quality reflection to peers, colleagues, and those they supervise. It helps people grow. It helps organizations perform.

Leaders Create Safe Space

So, why not foster more truth telling? It’s vital that work spaces are safe enough for candor. Leaders assure safety. It is the first step. Because denial and avoidance can be big coping strategies for us all, an environment that values facts and candor is key. Step two: try it. The truth can, indeed, set us free to help our people and organizations soar.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Making Progress: Costs and Risks

April 17, 2011

 

Before effective treatments were known for pneumonia and whooping cough, children died frequently in hospital wards. Every morning, hospitalized children would wake and ask about missing  friends: “Where did Charlie go?” The nurses’ common refrain was “He went home.” It was understood that home meant they’d died. The only way to preserve hope was to deny reality.

This poignant story is in Margaret Heffernan’s book, Willful Blindness. Across multiple sectors, cultures, and over time, she provides some thoughtful insights.   

 Shortcuts Are Costly

The Holocaust, Enron and MCI meltdowns, Madoff’s rip-off, Wall Street malfeasance, slavery and the Catholic Church’s sidestep of abusive priests  were all  man-made disasters. Why? Each reflected huge moral shortcuts. Harm was known but many preferred to ignore it. Daring to question an institution or a person can mean a loss of security. It is risk-taking.

 While denial can be a great coping strategy, it ought to be stricken from the quiver of accountable managers and leaders. It makes people and organizations “sick.” It has big costs. If your aim is creating change, there are many “uncomfortable truths” that require attention. To improve organizational performance and support growth, acknowledgement and action are essential.

 Big Progress

Big change can happen. The Marshall Plan is a historical example. It recast a large multi-country region and it’s future through the right work by and with important allies. George Kennan, a diplomat and architect of the Plan wrote about his agony and frustration in this change work. The effort to birth a great and bold plan was very, very difficult.

 More recent examples of important and intentional development efforts are creation of the European Union and reconciliation in South Africa . Step one is a close look at reality —  to understand and define  the current status. Sighting a feasible way forward depends on it. Heffernan writes that “unanimous decisions are incomplete…there is too much power…obedience…and conformity.” She counsels , if just one solution is visible, look again.

 The New Normal & Best Tactics

The high stress created by information overload, an excruciating fast pace, tremendous competition and/or an urgent mission does not excuse distance from moral reflection.  The preceding description of context is the new normal. And, it is present in any workplace or community. An analysis of the perilous implications from past ignorances can inform better tactics. Consider these :

  •  Look for what you cannot see. Many have said we didn’t foresee the catastrophe of 9/11 happening because were  weren’t looking for it. The information about it was present but we didn’t pay attention to it. Intentionally work to distinguish the trivial from the serious.
  •  Trust your intuition. It is well known that one indicator of useful critical thinking is discomfort. Your intuition provides inklings and suspicions – give it credit.
  •  Act sooner rather than later.  Before the stakes get big and stakeholders are deeply invested is the best time to raise questions. A failure to intervene early can feed the momentum of bad choices.

 Look, test, then act. People , organizations, communities  are desperate for leadership. Demonstrating integrity, the courage to meet the demands of reality, is directly connected to effectiveness.  Securing progress and sustainable results means you see both the risks of denial and the power of the truth.

Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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