The two sides to trust

In our last posts we’ve discussed how vital transparency and trust are to an organisation’s success. In the lead up to our next Breakfast of Changeevent this Thursday, this week we focus on the third, equally important ‘T’, without which the other two are impossible to achieve — truth.

As leaders, the value we place on truth determines the culture of our organisations, permeating into how safe employees feel, how willing they are to be open and engage their true selves in a shared mission, and how successful our teams and organisations become.

Nowhere to hide

Paradoxically, in a supposed ‘post-truth’ era, amid a sea of spin and ‘fake’ news, being transparent has never been more important. We live in a time of ubiquitous connectivity, where social media and global activism - Wikileaks and whistleblowers - increasingly make hiding the truth, sweeping issues under the carpet, no longer a possibility. Just ask Volkswagen, or Patisserie Valerie.

The impact of not being truthful, in terms of both reputation and the bottom line, is enormous.

Most of us are willing to tolerate mistakes or accept when things go wrong - we recognise that we’re only human. But when leaders fail to engage in honest communication, when a disconnect emerges between word and action, this becomes a question of integrity — and the foundation of trust is shattered.

The two sides to truth

We need to consider both sides of the truth equation: truth is not just about what we tell others, it’s also about what others feel they can tell us.

Volkswagen is a great case in point. Former CEO Martin Winterkorn was a demanding boss who abhorred failure. Executives described his management style as authoritarian and aimed at fostering a climate of fear. This prevented them from speaking the truth, and when its technology failed to meet required emissions standards, rather than fix the issue, they covered it up.

If we want to really evolve and grow, we must be willing to hear truth from our people. And the best way to do that? Lead by example.

But it’s often easier said than done - businesses and leaders far and wide continue to struggle to develop a culture of truth, for all kinds of reasons.

The final few tickets are still available for the breakfast on Thursday, where we will be exploring what holds us back, and how to build our reputation while being true to ourselves, our teams and our organisations.