March 27, 2018

I hear a lot of upbeat talk while coaching CEOs and other leaders. We ask leaders to inspire and keep all stakeholders engaged, and understandably, they want to emphasize the good news that makes them and their teams proud. However, some may hesitate or neglect to bring up the bad news – what is missing, stuck, or breaking down. If they mention a setback at all, they whitewash it or spend the most time explaining why it happened. While there is something to be said for the power of positivity, this rosiness gets in the way of progress when it ignores the facts and hides vulnerabilities.

This lack of candor is present in many entrepreneurial, mid-sized, and major businesses, as well as non-profit and civic organizations. There is often a tip-toeing around tough conversations or hard decisions, with the notion that we’re protecting someone or something. But at what cost?

The adages “if you ignore it, it will go away” or “ignorance is bliss” don’t apply to today’s business world. Whether it is leaders with their teams or CEOs with their Directors, this lack of candor stalls growth and success. The issues and stuck points need to see the light of day as they require team examination and collaborative problem solving.

Exposing vulnerabilities feels uncomfortable for everyone – not wanting to show weakness is a very human trait. However, the truth of the dialogue opens opportunities for people to connect and relate. Then we’re able to get down to the real work of setting things straight. When the facts are clear, and we’re able to find candor in the conversation, the path forward will be clear, too.

Leadership today requires courage – courage to acknowledge the challenge or the problem, courage to admit what is not working, courage to stand up for victims, courage to make tough decisions, and most notably, the courage to ask for help.