10 Essentials for Dynamic Candor
Inept leaders block uncomfortable topics from the discussion. It’s pathetic. Weak, fearful leaders need agreement to confirm their leadership.
On the other hand, I recently spent time with five members of an executive team who displayed the power of candor. They brought themselves and their perspective to the discussion. In some organizations it would have been dangerous. I found it invigorating.
Weak executives say what their CEO expects them to say.
Candor used well ignites useful stress and productive conflict.
Candor enables excellence by propelling tough issues into leadership conversations. Apart from candor, organizations enjoy imagined unity based on conspiracies of silence. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
Lack of candor is the path to mediocrity and eventual crisis.
Candor, however, isn’t an answer on its own.
The context of candor is tough issues, short-comings, failures, and the pursuit of excellence. Candor on its own creates negative, oppressive, dark environments.
10 Behaviors effective candor requires:
- Willingness to adapt or change. If you can’t say, “I was wrong,” candor becomes adversity.
- Keeping confidences. Candor ends when you publicly share private disagreements.
- Respect. Withholding candor is manipulative disrespect. It suggests that others believe you can’t handle or don’t want the truth.
- Courtesy. If anger fuels your candor, keep quiet until anger abates.
- Passion with emotional steadiness.
- Trust that others won’t use your words against you. Lack of candor expresses lack of trust. Candor creates vulnerability. Candor says, “I trust you enough to speak the hard truth.”
- Taking responsibility.
- Staying focused on issues, outcomes, processes, and procedures.
Candor apart from affirmation builds negative relationships.
Bonus: Everyone rows together once decisions are made.
How have you seen candor go wrong?
What makes candor work?
Well delivered candor creates openings for candor among others. People need to feel safe… seeing their leader be open and direct helps.
Candor is positive word but creates negative impact on relationship when leaders do not confirm or affirm with others. Anyone following its stand out and take different position. When candor goes wrong depends upon environment and people around. When people are concerned for self interest and need favor then following candor goes wrong. On the other hand, when people are honest and ethical, then not following candor goes wrong. So, when candor goes wrong is contextual.
Candor works when people feel the need for candor.When leader follow candor, do candor and be candor. Leaders who set examples, lead by example are person who has candor and veracity. So, it is about doing, feeling and being.
“Constructive Confrontation” was one of the mantra’s from Intel (I worked for an Intel supplier in the mid-90’s) Status meetings were all about the numbers, good or bad.. like Joe Friday it was “just the facts” They dished it out and were demanding, however they also allowed themselves to be held accountable for their side of the responsibilities, and accepted it when our side pushed-back for legitimate reasons/considerations.
Much of what you call out in today’s post is how we operated. It really became comfortable and natural once the traditional “shaping of the bad news” mentality was cast aside.
Dan, great post on a subject that needs much more dialogue. I have noticed that when candor is combined with anger and anxiety it seldom if ever has the desired effect. The anger makes it sound more like an accusation and an attack on the person or team it is directed toward. There is an “blaming” emphasis and an implication that some how this is a moral or integrity issue.
Another approach that doesn’t work well is extreme seriousness to the point it seems to suck all of the oxygen out of the air. Some refer to this as toxic seriousness.
I have come to deeply appreciate the contribution of Edwin H Friedman in sharing the concept of non-anxious presence, which he defines as some one who is completely at peace in their own skin and who brings a certain light heartedness to difficult situations. Their identity is secure and theirs is an attitude of “what is, is what is” so let’s deal with this. They are solution focused..
Dan, thoughtful and provocative post that adds to the world.
With candour and affection – some feedback for you.
This, and some other posts of yours have been marred by little spelling or grammatical errors, e.g. I think your 7th point ‘apologies’ should be ‘apologise’.
It may seem a small thing but it’s a big thing if it gets in the way of your message getting through.
What did you mean by #7. Apologies?
Find organizations spend more time shaping the message then changing the message. Company culture and individual fear often create more “elephants in the room” than real solutions through candid analysis and brainstorming.
Would appreciate more on this subject including detailed tips on how to make it effective and how to portray the intention of wanting the best for your orgainization versus presumption of negativity.
This is a great discussion as I see this everyday. Consensus building, taken to its extreme, and group-think are the demise of organizations that could otherwise be much more productive.