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.