Trust and the Moral Duty of Candor

Abundance Management Organizational leadership


Key Point: Candor and transparency are vital components for establishing trust. The most recent Deloitte Consulting Ethics & Workplace survey found that when the economy turns around, 1/3 (34 percent) of employed Americans plan to look for a new job. When asked what factors contributed to their plans to seek new work environments, 48 percent of employees cited a “loss of trust,” and 46 percent said a “lack of transparency in communications.” The British CIPD Employee Outlook survey for 2010 found that overall trust in leaders is low across the board, with only 1/3 of employees agreeing that they trust their senior management teams and 38 percent disagreeing. Nearly 47 percent of employees who strongly distrust their senior management are currently looking for a new job compared to just eight percent of workers who strongly trust their leaders.

So why is trust such an issue? My experience is that much of the trust issue stems from the unfounded belief that people in organizations can’t “handle the tough truth.” Scott Weiss, who has written a great book DARE: Accepting the Challenge of Trusting Leadership, states the following in reference to this outdated management perspective. “This is an insulting and paternalistic assumption that infantilizes employees and disregards their own needs and aspirations. It also overlooks the grapevine and the rumor mill that will fill the information vacuum anyway, probably with distorted information.”

I strongly agree with Weiss! During my career, I have come to understand that not only can people handle the truth, they act in remarkably constructive and honorable ways when confided in. When I’ve had to share tough news and uncertainty, people almost always responded with class and dignity that moved me. They usually hung in with me until a definitive “end.” And when I’ve been asked by “higher ups” to withhold or distort information, I have fought and most often flat out refused to comply, sometimes putting my career at risk. Weiss goes on to say in DARE: “Uncertainty about how an initiative will go is a poor reason for information brokering. In the final analysis there just aren’t any good reasons for keeping the workforce in the dark about material facts that affect their lives. Straight talk is always the best policy. In difficult times it may be the best retention strategy that organizations have.”

Character Moves:

  1. When you lead a team and feel that you need to withhold or “spin” information for “their own good,” STOP IT (legal restrictions not withstanding). If you’ve been around organizations for more than a few days you know there are few secrets (if any). We live in such goldfish bowls anyways. Everyone has a confidant they tell… We whisper but others hear us… We huddle in odd meetings, and people notice… We leave “secret” memos at copy machines, etc. So be straight and candid before the rumor mill creates more uncertainly. More importantly, it’s just the respectful and right thing to do.
  2. The principle to follow is; if material facts impact other people lives, tell them the truth so they can make informed decisions. Do not avoid tough news. Turn the ship into that ugly wave coming your way.
  3. When others trust us, we assure them that they can rely on us to act on their behalf, to protect them when we can, and to take them into our confidences where their own welfare is concerned. Treat it is a sacred duty to protect that trust, even when others argue against it.
  4. When you hear unfounded emotional rational like, “If we tell they will quit working hard,” “they’ll lose all initiative and motivation,” “they’ll immediately start looking for new jobs,” “the good ones will leave first,” etc. Challenge these statements. How would you behave? How would you expect to be treated? Would you trust YOU?

Trust in The Triangle,



Why Be a Rude Dude?

Kindness Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: Are you rude to others at work? Worse… Are you rude if you’re the boss? Or to show who’s boss? Research from Georgetown University found that rudeness in the workplace is impacting the bottom line and it’s on the rise. Professors Christine Porath and Dr. Christine Pearson found in a survey of 800 managers and employees across 17 industries that about half of workers said they were treated rudely at least once in the past week. That’s up about 25 percent from 1998. Their findings highlighted in their current HBR article, The Price of Incivility, also found that about one in four people are rude because their bosses act that way. Employees notice what SEEMS to be working then they follow that lead. People wrote to tell the authors that bosses were rude as a way of creating distance, a way to show who’s boss, and to set themselves apart. Others reported that managers actually had encouraged them to be rude. Huh?

Among other impacts, surveyed workers had these reactions to rudeness:

A. 48 percent intentionally decreased their work effort.

B. 47 percent intentionally decreased the time spent at work.

C. 38 percent intentionally decreased the quality of their work.

D. 66 percent said that their performance declined.

E. 78 percent said that their commitment to the organization declined.

F. 63 percent lost work time avoiding the offender.

Wow… 25 percent of people at work are rude because that’s the behavior that’s modeled by their bosses. Why would anyone want or have to be rude to “show or confirm who is boss?” The toughest bosses expect and coach to excellence but this does NOT equate to being rude. In fact being a great boss involves respecting all at every level. And employees have no excuse to behave badly because their boss does. Be personally accountable for being respectful.

Character Moves:

  1. Equate being tough to excellence with civility NOT rudeness. Anyone with a little power can treat others badly and get away with it, for a while. This is especially true when other people are concerned about losing their jobs. However the best team members and leaders are respectful regardless of circumstances. As an associate expect and insist on civility at every level and in every position.
  2. Learn how to “attack” process, situations and/or behavior, NEVER other people. This is one of the great guidelines when developing a demanding, highly respectful work environment and norms within a team.
  3. Just because your boss is rude is no excuse to model that behavior. Ideally you will be able to give your boss feedback on that behavior (sometimes its like spinach in our teeth… We don’t really see it until it’s pointed out). Feedback is necessary and helpful.
  4. Want to be tough? Have the courage to point out rude behavior when you see it or experience it. Respectfully but directly explain how that behavior impacts you, others, and the person behaving rudely and the organization.
  5. Most of us act rudely at one time or another. When we do, have the strength to show leadership by recognizing, apologizing, and learning to stop or do it less often.

No rude dudes in The Triangle,



Accelerate Yourself!

Accountability Organizational leadership Transformation


Key Point: The most daunting task facing corporations today is reinventing and accelerating, while simultaneously getting results from the current business model. Harvard’s John P. Kotter has received the 2012 McKinsey Award for his HBR article, Accelerate! The interesting element Kotter introduces is the need for organizations to establish two concurrent operating systems: The one that’s driving the day-to-day business and the other that focuses on continuously challenging and reinventing itself.

If this is what organizations need to do, then it is worth considering doing the same as individuals. The most dangerous situation is doing the same thing well and getting so comfortable that we punch in cruise control. It does not matter what level or position, how many awards, degrees, or kudos you’ve earned. If you are NOT accelerating by reinventing, you may get replaced or at minimum lose flexibility and choice. And unfortunately what you did in the past will count only as a historical footnote. It is what you can do today AND are going to do tomorrow that is the determining factor.

Lets say you had to reapply for your current job today. How would you do with the following interview questions: What is your framework for getting great results? What is your execution quotient? Describe how and where you’ve been a quick study. Explain why people would describe you as passionate, authentic. Describe your cultural agility. Explain leadership flow and collaboration. How do you cross and connect organization boundaries to get a valued outcome? How digitally proficient are you? Describe how many people on LinkedIn have recommended you and why? Share the last few blogs you have written and how they are thought leading? Tell me about the most inspirational communication you have ever developed. Share the most innovative things you have done the last 12 months. Why do you think you are generationally savvy? In 10 minutes connect the above questions into a story to show your financial acumen. Conclude by explaining to me how you have or will be a legendary builder of teams. Outline your purpose statement, core values and best attributes. Write down 10 numbers that tell me you understand and know the state of your physical well-being. Explain where you are on both the emotional and spiritual quotient growth dimensions.

All these questions (and many more) will be asked of future job candidates. This is based on research from numerous parties (see The 2020 Workplace by Jeanne Meister and Dr. Karie Willyerd). What does that mean for you and me?

Character Moves:

  1. Keep moving your character, attribute and skill development forward. Look where your organization/industry/function needs to head and determine a path that will intersect. (For example, every organization will need people who can develop insight from BIG data).
  2. Apply a growth mindset and think of personal acceleration as a wonderful way to constantly refresh. It’s like when you can’t find a parking space close to where you need to be. Park at the end of the parking lot and enjoy the fresh air and exercise rather than lamenting and driving around in circles hoping for a spot to open up.
  3. Accelerate consciously. Retooling after someone speeds by is too late and too hard. Get in front. Get going. Establish and concurrently run two operating systems: The current effective you and the one reinventing you.

Accelerate in the Triangle,



Be an Authentic Leader

Accountability Books


Key Point: Authentic leaders are deeply sought after and appreciated by people at all levels. This was reinforced in high definition for me during several ATB Town Hall meetings I recently participated in. During these sessions, people asked such great questions: “What personal feedback have you been given this year?” “What have been your highlights and biggest disappointments to date?” “Why did you decide to take this role on?” “What really keeps you up at night?” “What are people really saying about our team?” And so on. The exchange reinforced how much people really value authenticity.  They don’t want perfection, fluff, spin, or the “right” answer. They want the respect of us sharing our genuine selves.

Bill George’s Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, was a New York Times best seller a few years ago before authenticity was as topical. George best summarizes it like this, “(The book’s) message is simple to state but challenging to realize: We need authentic leaders to run our organizations, leaders committed to stewardship of their assets and to making a difference in the lives of the people they serve.”

Below are excerpts from the book that may be insightful on the topic:

A. “To become authentic, each of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character. Unfortunately the pressures of an organization push us to adhere to its normative style. But if you conform to a style that is not consistent with who we are, we will never become authentic leaders.”

B. “Dimensions of Authentic Leaders: I) Understanding their purpose. II) Practicing solid values. III) Leading with heart. IV) Establishing connected relationship. V) Demonstrating self-discipline.”

C. “For each of the dimensions, a developmental quality is required for leaders to be effective: I) Purpose: Passion II) Values: Behavior III) Heart: Compassion IV) Relationships: Connectedness. V) Self-Discipline: Consistency.”

Character Moves:

  1. George’s message is another example of how vital it is to be clear and self aware about our personal purpose, values, ability to connect, and consistency of behavior. If you haven’t written these down and reflected upon them, personal authenticity is more difficult to demonstrate.
  2. Practice being vulnerable (but not maudlin). People, while we may aspire towards it, do not expect or really believe in total perfection. Their confidence in us increases when we sincerely tell them what we find daunting, disappointing and challenging as well as exciting, joyful and gratifying. They root for us when we are transparent about our journey. We like people who get grass stains on their knees, are scraped up, with messed up hair.
  3. The best test on how centered and authentic you are is the degree you are open to any question at any time. While the answers may feel uncomfortable, the responses are genuine because we know who we are and what we stand for. To some extent, while we do not know the subject matter, we know the answer because it is us. Are you ready for a “town hall” at any time? Will people see you the true you?

Authenticity in The Triangle,



Tips to Create Your Own Best Life Story

Accountability Purpose Transformation


Key Point: Be like a Pixar storywriter and create your own life story with intent. What’s yours? Each of us is creating a story about our lives. We are either doing it consciously or it’s just unfolding. We obviously don’t have control of some things that make up the script. In every compelling story, the unexpected happens and we are confronted with confounding obstacles. On the other hand, we can take control over what we do to create our story and in all cases we have a choice in how we choose to act, react or think about the state we find ourselves in.

Former Pixar story artist Emma Coats Tweeted a number of valuable storytelling rules during her time at the animation studio (follow her here). I found them very useful when thinking about the metaphor for developing our own life story. Let me single out a few and let’s focus on the relevance to you and me.

A. Admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

B. What is your character good at? Comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

C. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

D. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

E. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

F. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

G. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

H. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

I. You have to know yourself: The difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

Character Moves:

  1. Think of yourself as the producer, director and star of your life story. This is not frivolous. One day after you’ve passed away, someone will likely stand in front of a group and tell your life story in about 15 to 20 minutes. What will they say?
  2. All of the lessons from a Pixar writer are interesting to think about, but the ONE I really think is vitally important is to write your desired ending first. The script may take unexpected turns, but with the ending in sight we usually get there. It is never too late to write an aspirational ending.
  3. Like Pixar characters, we are most attracted to and admire those that try, have an opinion, and are tough minded. They move forward and are at their best when they feed off a belief burning inside of them. Be that character.

Produce your story in The Triangle,


P.S. If you haven’t downloaded my new book you’re missing an inspiration for your story… Click here 🙂


We Should All Ask For a Mind Extension

Abundance Empathy Kindness


Key Point: We know having a lack of compassion and prejudging others can be very harmful, mostly to ourselves. If we think like this, it diminishes us. It makes us smaller. Why do we do it? How do we minimize behaving that way?

I was boarding a plane the other day and across from me I heard a sweet voice meekly ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extension. The young woman was obese and required more length so she could get the seatbelt around her. She sounded humiliated and immediately you could feel the “tsk-tsk” from other passengers float through the air. “How could she allow herself to get like that?” Etc. But imagine if we were on that same plane, each of us TOTALLY exposed? What if all our personal shortcomings, mistakes, and total humanity was as visible as our weight? The flight attendant would come by and we would ask, “could I have an extension for my hubris behavior? I just can’t tighten my seat belt being this narcissistic. With all the jealously driven, mean spirited behavior I’ve demonstrated over the past week, it just makes the seat belt too short. Could I have a belt extension please?” And so on. Somehow I think the rest of us would need “extensions” too.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember to fix yourself first. When you get that perfect, please make yourself available to fix everyone else. Also, let me know when you achieve perfection because you will have developed a very marketable product.
  2. Reinforce the principle of being compassionate as a strength versus a weakness. We often have little or no idea of the complexity that causes people to act or not act in certain ways. Seeking to understand and support is important to each of us because it is a reflection of how we treat ourselves first.
  3. When we are prone to discriminate or prejudge, ask for a mind extension to expand your thinking. Ask what it would be like to be in the other person’s shoes. What would it feel like? How would we want to be treated if we were in that seat? Could it be possible that it under certain circumstances it could be us one day? The wise saying, “But for the grace of God,” has a powerful reason to it.
  4. Sharpen your observation and understanding to learn about the entire person. Of course it includes the way they look, but more importantly, how they think, what they believe in, how they treat themselves and others. Get a complete picture and then ask for that mind extension to understand with even more compassion. (This also means being able to set healthy boundaries between others who could cause us personal harm).
  5. One of the great skills in developing a higher order of compassion is learning how to reframe. This is the ability to put a different “perspective” around a picture. When we learn how to constructively do that, the landscape and story changes. See Cindy Wigglesworth‘s exceptional book SQ21 and learn more about the power of reframing. You likely can’t become spiritually awesome until you learn how to do it.

A mind extension in the Triangle,