7 Reasons You Won’t Hear the Truth

December 18, 2013 — 24 Comments

iStock 000002934207XSmall 300x162 7 Reasons You Wont Hear the TruthYour team decides what you can handle.  Like parents protecting young children, they safeguard you and themselves.  They anticipate tantrums, and work around them.  They’ll even throw in a few things “they’re worried about,”  to make you feel better.

Don’t blame them.  You’ve taught them well.  Your well-intended intensity sends them to the nearest diaper genie to package their story.  To get the real deal, avoid these common traps.

How to Ensure You Won’t Hear the Truth

1.  Rush to Fix It

They’ve got this.  Your “fix” may aggravate the situation.  Escalating may damage peer relationships they’ve been working hard to develop.   Instead ask how you can best help.

2.  Model it

Your team watches how you manage your boss.  Watch what filtering you model. They’re picking up these skills from you.  Show them how you give your boss bad news.

3.  Freak out

Breathe. Nothing will shut them down more than high-emotions.

4.  Use it Against Them

They don’t want their mistakes to haunt them.  If you don’t know, you can’t “ding” them.  Encourage them to come to you with problems and solutions.  Commend them for their honesty.

5.  Assign More Work

They’re already overwhelmed working the issue.  Roll-up your sleeves to brainstorm solutions, but don’t just start assigning to-dos.

6.  Bring in the experts

Sure suggest folks who can help, but resist the urge to bring in a superhero to take over.

7. Require more updates

Now you’re nervous.  It’s natural to want more frequent updates.  If you need more info, make it easy.  The team doesn’t have time to build more Powerpoints to update you.  They’ve got work to do.

How to Encourage The TRUTH

1. T- Time:  Be sensitive to scar tissue from previous bosses.  Raise the issue one person at a time.  Ask how you’re doing and what it will take to nurture their trust.

2. R- Receive well:  Really listen to what they’re saying.  Gently probe for more information.  Ask follow-up questions, including how you can best help.  

3. U- Understand:  Reiterate what you’ve heard.  Use empathy statements, “Wow, that must be really frustrating.”

3. T- Take it offline:  Casually talk to team members one-on-one.  Ask what worries them most, and how you can help.  Ask what they think you should be worried about.

4. H- Honest:  Calmly articulate any concerns.  Being real with them, will encourage them to be real with you.

See Also:

How to Get People to Tell You the Truth (Forbes)
5 Steps for Getting the Truth Employees Will Never Tell You (Huffington Post)

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24 responses to 7 Reasons You Won’t Hear the Truth

  1. I worked for someone that in a leadership team meeting, when one of the VPs was honest with him and brought him the truth he was met with “what were you thinking?? how are you going to fix this???” In my memory he also berated him like a child for another five minutes before getting to “how can I help?” Sadly, within months, my smart colleague resigned.

    Great post, Karin!

  2. Truth shall set you free, but that is not always the case.

    I love your acronym for telling the truth. Thanks so much for sharing an important element that we encounter in our teams, in our organizations and in our leadership.

    Great message!

  3. Ugh. #1 was a needed reminder. I KNOW not to rush to fix things, but it feels like I can’t help it sometimes.

    I found that the reason is that I am a High D, go-go-go, “what’s next?” type of person. So my response to peoples’ problems is “Here’s how to fix this. What’s next?”

    So yeah…I haven’t really gotten past that barrier to the truth yet.

  4. I’ve know several highly emotional strung managers who go ballistic when bad news hits. Just being around these individuals in the same room can be emotionally draining.

  5. Wow! Another great post. Love the bit about diaper genie.

  6. Great article, extremely accurate.

    One minor typo in item #7. “naturally” should be “natural.” My OCD is so extreme that I put it in alphabetical order…CDO. Please forgive my PickyB-ness. :o)

  7. Getting at the truth can be a tug-of-war for many leaders as they really don’t want to know if they need to redo things. The problem with team members never speaking up is following the wrong path for a long time. I have seen organizations where the employees feel it is just easier to keep their mouths shut and collect their paycheck. Those organizations never grow and oftentimes unravel.
    When leaders model truth telling, team members can see how effective and healthy it can be.

    Great post, Karin!

  8. Great summary, both for leaders and team members to reflect on how they handle providing bad news to their boss.


  9. Great reminders, Karin. With all this, the role of building an open and engaging organizational culture delivers the foundation in which truth can be shared, acted upon, and learned from with a growth mindset. Accountability is still in the mix but learning and getting better needs to be, too. Thanks for these great reminders and guides. Jon

    • John, oh absolutely… results matter. Great leaders have strong results and hold people accountable. Creating an environment where people will be straight with you is an important aspect of that.

  10. I love how you define truth, very similar to what I use every day. All of these are great tips and reminders to use daily. Great post!

  11. You make great points, Karin.

    We all have pressure points, but the “high emotion” reaction is one that I’ve seen creating instant barriers. Drama is an effective way of shutting down the emotions in others; the truth always get subjugated in the process.

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