May 16, 2011
I was working with a leader who had just taken a job with lots of responsibility but very little structure or guidance. She was about to have a meeting with her staff for the first time. “What should I say?” she asked me in a panic. “I have no idea yet what I should be focusing on.” “Say that,” I replied. “It has the benefit of being true. Explain that you are in the process of figuring out priorities and would value their input. Then do a brainstorm. Not only will you get a sense of what they think is important, but you will gain their trust that you care enough to ask.” She let out a huge sigh and replied, “That feels just right.”
We all know the saying“The truth will set you free.” So why is it that telling the truth can feel so risky? Why can’t we just say, “Sorry, I can’t come to the meeting. I’m overcommitted.” Instead we invent a headache or resentfully go. Instead of saying, “I can’t listen to you right now,” we snap at our kids and spouse. Rather than an “I don’t know yet” to a business problem, we jump to decisions or blow a lot of smoke.
Telling the truth can risky. We risk disapproval, even anger. But when we stand on the ground of our truth, whatever that is, we create alignment with ourselves. We gain the power of integrity. And that is a mighty force that others can feel and respect even when they don’t like the message.