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Create a Candid Culture – What Are Your Employees Not Telling You?

The news is riddled with stories of organizations in which CEO’s allowed fraudulent practices to go on with no intervention. Are these leaders guilty of fraud? Or negligence? I’d say neither. They’re victims of pervasive insulation that is the norm is almost every organization world-wide. In most organizations the most senior people get the least information of all.

No one wants to tell her boss that a division is losing money or that customers are unhappy. Instead of speaking up, employees ‘protect’ senior leaders from bad news, putting on a front that everything is fine. Or are employees really protecting themselves?

Most senior leaders aren’t typically guilty of fraud or negligence. Rather, they’re guilty of not creating an environment in which people will tell them the truth.

Despite telling employees that risk taking and failures are acceptable, employees don’t believe it. It doesn’t feel safe to fail. And thus it isn’t safe to tell the truth. Leaders need to create a candid culture in which it is not only acceptable to report bad news, but it’s embraced. The question is how.

We tend to get what we ask for. So, quite literally, what are the leaders in your organization asking for?
Tell employees you want to know the good and the bad, and visibly reward both. Creating a candid culture requires publicly acknowledging mistakes and letting employees see that failing doesn’t result in being marginalized or terminated. And the same way we want our employees to be honest with us, we need to be more forthright and transparent with them. You can tell you employees more than you think you can. Employees want to know how the company is really doing. They want to know the results and what is standing in the way of success. The more information you share, the more information you’ll get.


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