The Willingness to Speak Truth
Doesn’t it feel sometimes, particularly during uncertainty, that you’re supposed to know all the answers and be in control of everything? Other people are counting on you. They’re looking at you for leadership and strength. And, one of the best ways you can be that strong leader is to admit three things. Three responses that a lot of people have a hard time delivering. “No”, “I don’t know”, and “I’m sorry.” It’s easy to see why. On the surface “no,” can seem harsh. Saying, “I don’t know,” and “I’m sorry,” might appear weak. These perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Because the truth is powerful.
Being a leader, you get things done. Other people notice. And the more you get done, the more people will want you to do for them. If you want to keep your health, accomplishments and team members at the forefront of your agenda, “no” becomes next best thing to a holy word. It’s protective, decisive and confidence-building. It keeps you from getting burnt out. And, if uttering that word makes you feel guilty, “no” doesn’t have to go into perpetuity, it could simply mean for now.
I Don’t Know
You cannot have all the answers at the tip of your tongue, just as you can’t be an expert in everything. And if you make stuff up, what happens if it’s wrong and it comes back to bite you? Or, you only have some of the information and things aren’t certain. It’s beyond your pay grade, expertise or far off field from anything you’re involved with, explain with: “I don’t know”. Not only can this phrase be truthful and authentic, it encourages respect.
Here’s how. A number of months ago I interviewed a group of young leaders about their understanding of trust in the workplace. A few of them told me about stories where the senior most leadership in their organizations weren’t forthcoming with news, ignoring several requests to make comments about a particular subject. These were different kinds of companies: tech, financial services and professional services.
Coincidentally, they all had the same response, “if only the top executives had said, “I don’t know” it would have made you feel better and listened to. Plus, it’s a human response. We didn’t expect them to be forthcoming 100% of the time, yet some response would have been appreciated. The top people were obviously hiding something which did not inspire trust. Throughout the organization, it was felt. And then, we saw the stream of people leave.” Those three words could have changed the trajectory of an organization. If only the top leadership had understood they weren’t expected to be perfect all the time.
The more you’re able to say “you’re sorry” and be willing to admit a mistake or be empathetic to someone’s hardships, the more people will want to follow your words and actions. Because you are human. And you care.
Also, you are willing to take the blame when it is yours, and not pass it off on someone else. A mind who never admits they’ve taken a wrong turn, goofed or must rely on company policy rather than their own preference without offering an apology before a corporate mandate, is a manager. That person is operating from an outdated philosophy of a 20th century leadership playbook. Young professionals are looking toward human-based leadership. As they look in everything they value: it’s about authenticity.
When I was in executive search consulting, I received a call from a client of the firm who wanted me to take over the search process for her company from someone else at my firm. I wanted to help her. I was sympathetic to her requests and knew she was speaking the truth. However, the firm’s policy was to allow this to happen only if the search partner was willing to let go of the project or had left the firm. Neither of which the client’s search partner had in mind. My only alternative was to listen to the client and tell her, “I’m sorry. I get you. I would do it in a minute, however this is our firm’s policy….” An honest apology earned her respect even though I couldn’t change the reality. It was the best I could do for both of us.
Can you be that role model you want to be? If so, you can utter these three things with confidence. If you have chosen to be a 21st century leader, then you are already comfortable with speaking the truth. These three responses are in your vocabulary.
The world right now needs more leaders and the right leaders.
If you are in a position to support others or you are called to bring forth good change, encouragement, and growth – you want full access to your potential. Choose yourself first so that you may impact others to use their full capability.
If you would like to have a conversation on how you can do this, contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com
We can grow together. Coaching is a give and receive process, which I recognize and appreciate with those who were born in the Millennial or Gen Y generation.