Managed Truth

Tell the truth. We've been told to honor this moral dictate since we could talk. But, the naked truth can be difficult to pull forth in a boardroom. One of the biggest problems CEOs face is working with colleagues that "manage the truth." By "manage," I don't mean lie. They simply hold back and this can be for a myriad of reasons. The hierarchal structure inherently found in sizable organizations lays the groundwork for this typical problem. There is no doubt that the massive hierarchy that exists in large firms allows for scalability.  But it's also known to isolate executives. When you're isolated from the truth, your organization could be dying a death by a thousand cuts and you’d never know. But there are things you can do to break the tendency toward managed truth. Below are three tips to help you get better information faster so you can help solve the real problem.

1) Ask for problems

You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about. So ask your team to bring you the problems that are preventing them from executing the strategy. Ask for problems that they believe put push the organization outside of it’s risk tolerance. Instilling this habit creates a culture that views problems differently; they're okay as long as they are fixed and not repeated.

2) Ask for the facts

Once you've been made aware of a problem, ask for the facts. You want your colleague or team to bring all relevant data to the table for consideration. But, this can translate into long delays while your team sifts through a mountain of data. In today's information age, it's easy to to get mired down in an endless sea of facts, figures, studies, and the like. Make sure to set a firm timeline for fact finding and prepare to receive the information with open arms...remember, you asked for it. Your reception sets the tone for future discussions and reaffirms the message, "I want the truth, no matter what."

3) Ask them what they need

There's nothing worse than identifying a problem and then not being given the resources needed to solve it. Encourage your team to ask for what they need whether it be outside subject matter expertise or project management. Because without the right resources, resolution is impossible. Your team will quickly learn that you cannot be counted on for assistance and that your requests for solutions are unrealistic. Your goal should be to build trust by asking for input and delivering the necessary resources. When you consistently reinforce these tips, team members will no longer feel the need to carefully craft responses, side-step or ignore the issues. They'll bring them to the forefront.

Once your team sees that you can handle the truth, they will be more likely to give it to you. Using these three tips to build a better rapport with your team in solving problems will save you time and money. For more on communicating through strategic challenges, be sure to check out last week’s post Lost in Translation.