Why don’t people tell the truth?

Working in teams is an interesting experience. One feature is the failure to tell the truth. Hold on! Before you point fingers or put up your defense, the failure to tell the truth is not limited to barefaced lying – even though there is no shortage of that. What I find cute is the fact that the failure to tell the truth applies to even paragons of virtue. Even more curious is the likelihood of the issue being present in highly cohesive teams.   CASE STUDY 1A highly connected and well respected member of your project team goes off the rail with a given perspective. You see that her track leads to a dead end.  You find some politically correct way to side-line her and drive the project to completion. What was the truth?“Your perspective is flawed because of ABC and if we continue along that path these are the likely outcomes.” But who among us (without a formal job offer in place) would dare to do that? So, we fail to tell the truth in favour of a peaceful and harmonious life.  CASE STUDY 2This scenario is along similar lines. You are tasked with a team to undertake a high impact project against tight deadlines. You are responsible for pulling together the input from the project team. The quality of some of the inputs from team members is really disappointing.  You burn the midnight oil and pretty much rewrite their contributions.  You thank everybody for their input explaining that you did a bit of word smithing for aesthetics.   What is the truth? “I appreciate the quality of the inputs and efforts of Jack and Jill. I must say that I am disappointed with what I got from Tom and Jerry.”Who me? No sir. That would just stir up a can of worms. Better to leave it alone.  Truth telling gets another beating because of a reluctance to ruffle feathers.  CASE STUDY 3This is a horse of a different colour.  You ask for an update and you get a fulsome response that gives you a sense that things are on track. Later you find out that the response you got was socially distanced from the reality on the ground.  Team leaders face the prospect of members painting a picture of the present state that they hope will give them time to get back on track.  All too often, the picture gets worse not better. Plus, had you known the true state of affairs you could have taken corrective action on a timely basis. Here truth telling submits to the power of fear and a misguided sense of protecting self. Incidentally, the more demanding the work culture and the less understanding and forgiving the leadership philosophy, the greater the prevalence of the failure to tell the truth.   SOLUTION Teams can be guided to a greater affinity to telling the truth through carefully crafted interventions.  One cornerstone is a sense of self. Self-awareness is an essential component of trust and without trust, truth telling is not possible.  Another pillar would be work on the mindset of the leadership cadre. The goal would be to get them to buy into a culture that places greater emphasis on a philosophy that seeks to educate, empower and enable as against imposing draconian rules, monitoring compliance rigorously and punishing aberrations without empathy.   —ACTION Let’s have a conversation about truth telling in your organization.  Also, watch this space for the announcement of a free, non-intrusive 5-day Team Productivity Hack Challenge. You can pre-book your seat by sending an email to rohan.walker@infoservonline.com with “Challenge Seat” in the subject line.
     At INFOSERV, we are all about People! We help our clients build successful teams through targeted interventions & innovative technology solutions. To learn more about how we can help you do the same click HERE for a brief summary of our solutions or hop over to our Website.

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