I was driving to get my gardening supplies and drove down a familiar road. The route takes me up a steep hill and on both sides of the street there are tall trees and shrubs that create a wall of green. You can’t see what is behind the dense shrubbery.
When I was driving home, I had to stop at the crest of the hill for a red light and had a full view of what had been hidden on each side of the road. It looks like they are constructing a shopping mall. Wow, a huge complex that I knew nothing about.
Driving in the opposite direction gave me a different view of what is going on in the neighborhood. If you had asked me to tell you of new developments before I drove home, I would have told you that there weren’t any. I wouldn’t have been purposefully lying, but until I went in a new direction, my perception was there were only trees and bushes.
I’ve heard many people say that they should be trusted because they always tell the truth, but so often, we tell the truth from what we know. We’re not lying, but the truth may be hidden from our view.
Your effectiveness as a leader hinges on your trust-ability. You need to be seen as someone who tells the truth. Can you see things from all viewpoints?
When Harry Herington of NIC was asked a question at a town hall meeting, he let them know that they could have the information, but then all of them would have insider trading knowledge and would not be able to buy or sell any stock. He asked if they wanted him to continue. The question was withdrawn. Harry could have said, “I can’t tell you that,” which would have created an atmosphere of distrust. By being honest and sharing the full view and scope of answering the question, Herington upped his trustworthiness.
Using Herington’s example, you can show people what the full picture looks like. As a leader, you need to decide if employees are equipped with the business acumen and knowledge to recognize the consequences of disclosing too much information.
Sometimes you can’t share because of privacy issues, but they must be able to trust that you have their best interests at heart. If you say there is nothing going on and your actions, and the actions of the company, say differently you are creating a trust deficit. Trust your employees with the ability to handle the truth even if the truth is they can’t have all of the information. Don’t sugarcoat and say things are great if they are not. Share what you can when you can.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.”
Be the honest leader that people want to follow. If the truth is hiding behind some bushes, then be honest and let people know that you’re view is obstructed and you’ll give them the full picture when you have an opportunity to look at it from every direction.