According to Jack Welch, the lack of candor is the biggest dirty little secret in most organizations.
Conventional wisdom is that you have to be offensive or hurtful to be candid. It is either candor or the relationship. Consider for example a meeting where an aggressive boss makes a suggestion to solve a problem – a suggestion that is likely to cause several undesirable side effects, or is impractical to implement. For most people the choice is between speaking up and jeopardizing the relationship with the boss, or keeping quiet and letting the sub-optimal idea go through to the detriment of the organization. It is no surprise that most choose the latter.
My own experience has taught me that the most effective people are the ones who can speak with candor, and at the same time strengthen rather than hurt the relationship. It takes skill and practice to be able to do that, and that is the subject of our workshop on Conflict Management. But the question is, what is the big deal with candor anyway?
Here are 5 reasons why you should nurture candor as one of the most important characteristics of your organization.
- Candor allows the best ideas to surface, which is how an organization is able to excel and realize its potential. This happens because more people speak up without being afraid of negative consequences. In the example above, no one wins when someone in authority gets away with pushing their own sub-standard idea. The organization is worse off, the employees back the idea only halfheartedly, making it even less likely to succeed.
- Candor generates speed by cutting out unnecessary discussions, debate, and iterations. People confront issues squarely, saying what is really on their mind, so that decisions are arrived at and implemented quickly.
- Candor eliminates waste because the organization will not build wasteful products and departments if people call them out early as white elephants. At the very least new costs and investments will get real scrutiny that they deserve.
- Candor improves morale. More than anything else, good people want a voice and the ability to make a difference in an organization. Candor allows everyone to have this opportunity. The other thing candor does is improve trust among people, which also helps morale.
- Candor improves employee performance. The one area that suffers from the greatest lack of candor is employee performance reviews. Lack of candor in performance reviews hides performance inhibitors, thus cheating employees of the knowledge of their weaknesses, and stunting their growth and learning.
If you look at candor as central to organizational performance, create an environment that encourages and nurtures candor, and help employees with skills to exercise candor, you will go a long way toward improving organizational performance.