A Conversation with Leadership and Candor Expert, Nancy K. Eberhardt: Why Candor is Critical for Success
What does it mean to be a candid leader, and why is it important for business today?
In business and in life, the shortest distance between two points is straight talk! Research shows a significant return on investment from a culture of candor, a powerful tool that builds trust and is a force for positive change. Among a sample of Fortune 500 companies where the CEO is judged to be open, uses clear language, and shares information, the returns are well above the S&P 500.
Authentic conversation, quickly getting to the heart of what matters translates into organizational success. Honesty builds trust. When communicating with your stakeholders—whether your board, executive team, staff, or stockholders—there is enormous value in sharing and hearing the truth, the good and the bad. It’s critical for growth and innovation and it’s vital for remaining relevant and competitive.
Candor is honesty in communication that is helpfully forthright in a way that supports someone’s success and fully shares impressions of “how it is for you.” Your challenge when being candid is to avoid belittling, judging or critiquing. Candor is respectful and interested in a better outcome for all involved—the people and the business. By its nature, candor is also succinct, without irrelevant information. Sometimes people just won’t stop talking after they’ve made their point. The real message tends to get lost.
Given its benefits, why is candor uncommon?
Candor is a commodity of uncommon value in our society, yet we see not nearly enough of it. Sometimes people are not frank because they feel they need to protect others from bad news. Or we don’t ask for that raise fearing we may lose our job. There are times when we communicate with candor and times when we do not. The goal is to be more candid more of the time. It’s within each of us to be totally lacking in candor at times, yet that doesn’t mean we’re unscrupulous. It means we are human.
It’s about being accountable. We don’t want to be surrounded by “yes” people. As leaders, we would be well advised to work harder at including the perspectives of those with whom we disagree. As employees, we gain respect by speaking up.
Often I’m called in to a company during a time of major transition or crisis. Today, I am in the business of promoting clarification and reducing confrontation and concession. I am an advocate of candor in communication so that everyone involved understands one another’s positions and can make the best decisions. Whether corporate America is dealing with product recalls, data breaches, or food-borne illnesses, we still don’t do it well.
How can we create a culture of candor?
Companies should realize that candor is essential to their survival. The truth must be out. Yes, executives in crisis will worry about the collateral damage, but open conversation is the first step in reframing the situation and realizing how very honoring such candor is to all involved.
How much more truthful would we be if we were confident our message would be supported and well received? What needs to be said is not always popular. But, the moment of speaking up can also be the moment that healing begins – for the individual, for the organization, and for society.
When you’re honest with someone, you honor them. You show them the respect they deserve as thinking, feeling, and creative souls. You give them the facts they need to make intelligent decisions.
Being a candid leader is an art, which doesn’t necessarily come naturally. With practice, you can learn the behaviors and authentic ways of speaking that tap into the power of candor and gain velocity in your results.
Register today for Nancy’s engaging presentation on December 2 to learn how candor can help you and receive your free copy of Uncommon Candor: A Leader’s Guide to Straight Talk.
By General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, Chris Fussell (Kindle Edition, Penguin, 2015), Reviewed by Steve Gladis, August 2015).
A member Q&A with Steve Gladis, Ph.D., President & CEO, Steve Gladis Leadership Partners
How long have you been a member of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce?
I’ve been a member of that Chamber for 19 years! It started when I was assigned as an Associate Dean at the University of Virginia in charge of the Northern Virginia Center and was asked to be a board member.
Why do you continue to engage with the Fairfax Chamber through Chamber membership?
I’ve found the Chamber to be the single best place to find where business leaders in the region hang out! When I was at UVA we studied all the groups in the region and determined that the Fairfax Chamber met our needs the best for wide exposure to business in Northern Virginia. Later when I started my own company, Steve Gladis Leadership Partners, I threw my anchor out again into the Chamber’s waters and it’s been the best investment I make. More than 50% of my business has come through the connections that I’ve made over the years. Even as important, many of my friends come from those Chamber relationships. That’s a hard proposition to beat.
What advice would you give to new members on how to get the most of Fairfax Chamber membership?
Once a while ago when I was the membership chairman, I came up with an idea based on a cable show about how to reinvent and refresh your car, called: ”Pimp Your Ride.” My idea was to “Pimp Your Membership!” And the advice I give companies is to 1. Engage their leadership on committees; 2. Engage their managers at all levels on thought leadership groups, and at social gatherings; 3. Engage at events. The key word—Engage. You get out what you put into it. It’s that simple.
Why should other companies join the Chamber?
Any company that wants to do business in Northern Virginia is “nuts” not to join the Fairfax Chamber. It’s a one-stop place to plug into the business community that would take years and years otherwise.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable part of being a member of the Fairfax Chamber?
The friendships I’ve developed at the Chamber.
How can readers find out more about Steve Gladis Leadership Partners?
Some links that might be of value:
9. Who is someone that you would love to meet (living or dead)? Steve McQueen
10. What are some of your hobbies outside of the office? Tennis, reading, and gardening
11. In your opinion, why is the Fairfax Chamber a great membership organization? "We are the voice of Business in Northern Virginia"
12. How can we reach you? (Phone, email, social media, etc.) 703-752-7522