I Tried Being Honest With My Team — Here’s What Happened
I was going about my business one day, taking a stroll in the park, when my friend Robert happened to call me. After sharing our views about the ongoing pandemic and the effect it is having on the economy and the IT industry, we started to exchange anecdotes.
I found out that Robert, who runs a business of his own, saw his company collapse recently. And that would be a bad ending on its own had he not found himself in a rather precarious situation right after.
He was a hard worker and a relentless optimist, so he put in every effort he could to salvage what was left of his organization. He showed his team a view of a future where success was certain.
But he found out that they would never believe him again. His team could not believe that they were led into such a dark alley with no knowledge of how they got there. They felt betrayed. All their efforts had simply gone to waste since the boss they served for years could not trust them enough to disclose the risks of what they were doing.
Even though it is hard to take away from something that hasn’t happened to you, Robert persisted that in this case, I had to. He told me, “Sandeep, just be honest. It won’t hurt the way you do things at the organization at all.”
Seeing what he was going through, I thought he was delirious. And I’ll tell you why.
Leaders have to state clear objectives, sure, but like a parent, they also have to shield the team from harsh truths of life.
However, Robert told me that was the wrong strategy. And, as a leader who likes to explore different leadership styles and try new things to engage my employees, I was willing to try it out. So, I tried being honest with my team, and here’s what happened.
What Exactly Did I Do?
I found that I wasn’t really lying to my team at all. I was just omitting certain truths. But none of that anymore. I needed to speak my truth and so I decided some changes are needed. I wanted to be more suggestive and graceful in the spirit of being honest.
Here are some of the things I did to be overly expressive:
- I gave honest feedback,
- I did not hold back on giving honest appreciation,
- And, I did not withhold the scope of the project,
- I told my team exactly what I wanted them to do,
- I clearly assigned their tasks and explained responsibilities,
- They were in the loop with me when there were risks in the projects, and
- I told them about the negative repercussions of various campaigns and projects.
When they were told what to do, they were told how they fit into the project, why we are doing this, why now, and why we chose them, some new developments were bound to surface soon.
And it did happen.
Result #1: Honesty Brought Trust
The first thing I saw change was the way people looked at me. They looked at me like I was human, ready to take risks, and make mistakes, but collectively. They were thankful that I was honest and I felt that now they could relate to me more.
It was liberating for me too!
Now I had a team I could share my fears with. I realized that problems seem and become significantly more manageable when we have all hands on deck.
Additionally, I saw people coming up to me with their own worries about the upcoming events and even pointed me to some risk factors that I missed at first glance.
Not only did I find myself trusting them more, but they were trusting me as well.
Result #2: Trust Brought Loyalty
All this trust into the equation brought about some very welcoming values of loyalty. I noticed that people were feeling that it was suddenly easier for them to confide in me. In the spirit of loyalty, we were collaborating much better than before. We had started working like a well-oiled machine.
I saw my team become more invested in what they did. They started to take charge of their own roles. I noticed that people took the responsibility of every task that was assigned to them.
I was starting to think Robert had just dropped an extremely valuable piece of information into my hands. And, consequently, I had to reap all the benefits it came with.
It wasn’t late until I realized trust and loyalty are a two-way thing.
Result #3: Loyalty Brought Comfort
Since people were now more aware of what they were working towards and what goals they had, they were automatically more comfortable to be at their place of work.
Honesty brought in an air of familiarity, people could not only just trust me more, but they also felt they could rely on one another a lot better now too. Communication was improving and hence, collaboration was blooming as well.
I felt as if they were okay now that they could finally be themselves. With their fears, opinions, and goals out on the table, they felt more seen, yet more comfortable.
This whole being honest phase was a breath of fresh air for all of us.
Result #4: Comfort Brought Joy
I was realizing that my loyal employees should be rewarded so I started appreciating their efforts and achievements a lot more. Soon they ended up in an environment where they were recognized and singled out for their efforts and passion towards their work.
Not only did this bring about a joyous environment, but it also uplifted the overall well being of the office. This positivity in the work atmosphere led to a much more motivated workforce that had the spirit to defeat all problems together.
Result #5: Joy Brought Satisfaction
I think this is a given. Who wouldn’t want to stick around at a place that is positive, open, welcoming, and transparent?
This was quick to take place. People felt more appreciated and they were content with their jobs and roles.
“Employee retention is always great at workplaces that work with a foundation of transparency.”
I had read that almost everywhere but implementing it with this magnitude felt like a big accomplishment.
The way that people were taking responsibility for future projects made it apparent that they were in it for the long haul. And I realized, if you can hand over your future to an organization, you are one hundred percent satisfied with your standing there.
Here’s Why Honesty Should Not Be One-sided
I have always shielded my organization, and hence, my team from any sort of bad news. I was focussed on morale and I could not watch it plummet at any cost.
Admittedly, the vision was askew. But now I know honesty at the workplace does not have to be one-sided. As leaders, we have a responsibility not only to lead people towards success but also towards reality.
Your team will only trust you when they are certain that you trust them with harsh truths and sensitive information. And, that is how I propose to lead my team from now on.
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The conclusion to this whole experiment is that I had a message to give all the leaders out there. And, through Robert’s story and my trials, it must be clear now that transparency and honesty is the way to a more understanding, comfortable, and at the end of the day, joyous work environment.
Let’s build that together and slowly but steadily take steps to be more forthcoming with the team. Maybe you won’t see it later today, or next week, but the effects are there and they are long-lasting. I hope I am the Robert in your story, the guy who tells you there are positives to being more honest with the team!
Let me know about your views on this, I’d love to know more about what leaders out there think about truthfulness and honesty mixed with management.
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