Earlier this month I read two articles in the same week that emphasized the same ingredient in highly effective organizations. Both articles reminded me of something Winston Churchill said, “We occasionally stumble over the TRUTH but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” By connecting-the-dots between these two articles I hope you will pause long enough to let the simplicity of that one ingredient sink in.
The first article was a New York Times interview with Joseph Jimenez the chief executive of Novartis, titled Fix the Problem, and Not Just the Symptoms by Adam Bryant. Joseph’s opening comments are about the most valuable leadership lesson he’s learned:
- It started when he was brought in to turn an organization around and after several months of missing their forecast he hired a behavioral psychologist.
- Her diagnosis, “This isn’t about skills or about process. You have a fundamental behavioral issue in the organization. People aren’t telling the TRUTH. So at all levels of the organization, they’ll come together, and they’ll say, ‘Here’s our forecast for the month.’ And they won’t believe it. They know they’re not going to hit it when they’re saying it.”
- His lesson? “Behavior is a function of consequence. We had to change the behavior in the organization so that people felt safe to bring bad news. And I looked in the mirror, and I realized I was part of the problem. I didn’t want to hear the bad news, either. So I had to change how I behaved, and start to thank people for bringing me bad news.”
The second was a SmartBlog Leadership article by Dana Theus, titled Is your ego in the way of your success? (Your people might think so). Dana’s article contains some powerful data about the effectiveness of organizations where employees were afraid to speak up:
- Companies whose employees were afraid to speak up suffered 5.8% lower total shareholder return than those with cultures that encouraged open communications.
- Where fear was more prevalent, fraud and misconduct were higher.
- 59% of companies surveyed said that $1 million worth of harm would have to be at stake for employees to share honest negative feedback (29% said $10 million).
- Many people report that being penalized for speaking their TRUTH made them quit or seek employment elsewhere. Speaking TRUTH isn’t just another career skill — like negotiating a salary package — it really hits people at their core and is related to feeling like they’re being true to themselves as human beings.
So how is your organization? …Do you have the ingredient to organizational effectiveness?
“It takes two to speak truth, one to speak and another to hear.”
Henry David Thoreau