When I hear, “May I speak freely?” or “To be honest, Michelle,” –two things come to mind. One: I need to brace myself, because the truth hurts. Two: does this person typically lie unless granted permission to speak the truth? What happened to letting your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’? (Matthew 5:37a) Or is it still common courtesy to sugarcoat the truth?
Unfortunately, many of us expect this ‘common courtesy’ from bosses, employees, and co-workers and are not prepared for the rare sting of a forthright comment. How often do we share the raw truth? How often do we get it? I caught my breath at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, when I heard Gary Hamel (Director of the Management Innovation Lab) say, “Dishonesty is not compassion.” In other words, sugarcoating is not a courtesy. It is not compassion. Hamel added, “the kindest form of management is the truth.”
While coaching this week, I used the word ‘stubborn’ as I described my client’s habitual response to an ongoing problem. She admitted my comment hit her like a ton of bricks. Those who know me well, know I choose my words carefully and could have said ‘tenacious’ instead of ‘stubborn’. However, my candor revealed a perspective that set her free from the old routine. (John 8:32)
Here are a few tips for those willing to dabble in the truth:
- YOUR truth better be THE truth. Get the whole story and know all the facts, first!
- Know truth-telling can be risky. Be aware of possible responses and be willing to accept them. Would an employee walk off the job or repeat your words to a co-worker?
- Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Your motives must be pure. Focus on kindness rather than entrapment.
- Grant the individual or team time to process your input or allow a ‘cool off period’, if needed. This encourages thoughtful discussion rather than an emotional retort. Once the potential shock, anger, or pain tapers off, a second conversation is more productive.
- Use wisdom and discernment. Choose your words carefully. If necessary, practice your comments ahead of time. Hastiness is foolishness. (Proverbs 29:20)
- Respect individual’s or team’s confidentially and privacy.
Candor and honesty can be compassion. The truth is so very powerful. And those that wield the truth know that! Regardless of how ‘right’ you may be, your audience will still decide how to respond to what you’ve said. The truth can hit like a ton of bricks, but it can also set you free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 21 years.