Connecting-The-Dots: TRUTH Matters

by  Chery Gegelman  |  Leadership Development

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 BryantJoseph’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 truthone to speak and another to hear.”

Henry David Thoreau

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About The Author

Articles By chery-gegelman
Chery Gegelman was once a frustrated visionary that learned to lead extensive system-wide changes from the middle. Today she is The Founder of Giana Consulting, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two books. Her passion is bringing help and understanding to people and organizations that are leading through change to growth.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Wayne McEvilly  |  01 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Individuals within an organization driven by fear and misplaced ambition (need to hold onto job comes first above all else) will neither communicate the truth nor recognize it when it appears, and if it should, they will actively resist its presence. I deal with such disfunctional organizations on an almost daily basis in my attempt to do a seemingly simple thing: bring great music to a wide spectrum of the public, from little children to senior citizens and all in between. Libraries, universities, public school systems, all are corporations not excempt from the laws stated in this post. The assumption that they are otherwise could be costly to anyone who deals with them. Once in a while you come upon the rare exception –
The leader always sets the tone – Always – in a school, it is the principal. I am blessed this month with playing in one school where the tone is set in the key of impeccable leadership. Many others are ln the midst of such chaos as this post explores –
“Ah life! It exceeded imagination!” Marguerite Young

Chery Gegelman  |  01 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Wayne – Thank you for your comments! I am glad that you have found a rare exception!

Character-Based Leadership is so logical, so powerful, and so vital for success today and for growth tomorrow – In organizations. In communities. In our world. What if…?

It’s a vision worth living and sharing.

Lyn Boyer  |  01 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Thank you for a very interesting and important perspective. In the course of getting things done, truth is too often forgotten. It is not always in attempts to deceive. Sometimes, it is in an attempt to get things done. Those who trifle with the truth may even believe they are doing the “right” thing. When it affects an individual’s willingness to speak up or to share different perspectives, it is definitely not the right thing to do. I enjoyed reading your article.

Chery Gegelman  |  01 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Lyn, Thank you for the comment.

I agree that often there is no intent to deceive. Sometimes it may start with poor communication or an omission of a detail or even with a belief that to preserve morale that the truth should not be shared.

The reality is that words and actions of titled leaders are constantly observed, and quickly define expected and acceptable business practices. Our choices – positive or negative, impact our organizations and the lives of those we touch constantly.

This weekend Michael Hyatt posted an article in his newsletter by Lisa Whittle titled 5 Truths To Remember When Your Leader Falls. It is a beautiful article that emphasizes our humanness and our need for compassionate accountability.

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