The Uncompromising Truth
When everyone in the workplace knows it’s safe to treat others with the uncompromising truth, you have a shared value and trust is built.

Blog by Peter Dove
President of Shared Values Association

In the ancient days of the Greek city-state, a man was chosen to greet an approaching army and do his best to arrange for peace. This man was called a hero.

Rob Lebow dreamed of bringing peace to the work environment so he wrote a book: “A Journey into the Heroic Environment.” This book is based on the answers of 17.1 million workers from around the world in response to this question: “What does it take for you to be excited about doing your best at your job?”

Here are the answers Lebow found:

1. Treat others with the uncompromising truth

2. Lavish trust on your associates

3. Be receptive to new ideas regardless of their origin

4. Mentor unselfishly

5. Take personal risks for the organization’s sake

6. Give credit where credit is due

7. Do not touch dishonest dollars

8. Put the interests of others before our own

Nothing new, but common sense is not common practice. Your organization delivers these eight values now. The question is to what degree does your organization deliver these eight values? If you focus on being world class at delivering these specific values, you will have a sustainable, world-class organization that achieves world-class results.

See if this is confirmed in your own work experience. Have you ever had a boss that you did not like and didn’t respect? What was productivity like? I bet it was low. Conversely, have you ever worked for a boss you respected and honored? My guess is that workers cared more, trust was higher, and so was productivity.

Let’s take a real-life example of just one of these values: Treat others with the uncompromising truth. People deserve the truth and when they haven’t received it, they feel betrayed and disempowered. If people feel it is not safe to tell the uncompromising truth, they won’t.

  • Joe has body odor, always has and no one tells him. Joe needs the truth, instead others joke about him as they roll their eyes. Nobody tells Joe, does Joe know something’s up? Yes. Does this cost you anything when people don’t include Joe? Yes. Joe does his job but won’t go the extra mile and freely share information because he doesn’t feel like it and you will never know the cost.
  • Nancy is a gossip, loves to talk about other people. Nancy shares a juicy piece with Sue who is too polite to say anything though she feels uncomfortable. After all she has to work with Nancy all day every day. What’s that costing you? Plenty. Nancy is killing trust in the organization. Trust is everything. Low trust, low productivity — high trust, high productivity and joy as well. Trust is the foundation.
    When everyone in the organization knows it’s safe to treat others with the uncompromising truth, you have a shared value and trust is built.
  • Rita sees a memo and it has created some fear. She wants to tell you, her boss, the uncompromising truth but won’t for fear of what you might say or do. You’re about to make a decision, need the feedback and don’t get it. Results are only as good as the decisions. But Rita has to tell someone so she complains to her friend John and a rumor starts. Costly? Yes.

The solution to all of this: Make it OK within your group to tell the uncompromising truth.

Get your people together and make a ground rule, a contract, an agreement between all that it is safe to tell the truth. Agree on guidelines as to what telling the truth means. What is OK and what is not OK behavior.

When it’s agreed, you are on your way to a heroic environment. Over the years we have found these guidelines to be the most effective:

  1. Am I discussing the issue with the other person within 24 hours?
  2. Am I asking the other person for permission to communicate? Is this a good time to talk?
  3. Am I approaching the other person in a non-threatening way?
  4. Am I straight-talking without hurting the other person’s feelings? Is my language simple, understandable, non-apologizing and non-personal?
  5. Am I making a request of the other person and not a complaint? Is my request telling the other person how I would like it to be?

If you drive from your house to the grocery store with the emergency brake on, you can still get there, you just have to press harder on the gas pedal. You can still get results working in an organization that does not have a heroic environment, but it’s like driving it with the brake on.

The advice of this article is to focus on the eight values at every opportunity starting with the truth. Take the brake off, it will set you free.

About the Author
Peter Dove is president of Shared Values Associates (www.peterdove.com). He focuses on installing the Shared Values Process as well as management and leadership development training and assessments.