The ‘New Nice’ Through Truth and Transparency

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Blog Learning: How truthful and transparent are you at work? Is this REALLY valued in your culture? Can you be “nice” at the same time?

Story: The CEO of Costco, W. Craig Jelinek, stood in front of the company’s leadership team on a dreary Seattle day, and took on every hard nosed question they had with clear, apolitical and specific responses. He gave them unvarnished answers including some things that weren’t exactly popular with the crowd. At the end, the team gave him a standing ovation. The explanation: “We value the truth here!” Dave Mowat, the former CEO of ATB (with the highest rating of any CEO on Glassdoor in 2017), was great for many reasons, and most of all for being truthful. During my almost seven year tenure, he told 5,000 plus people on two different occasions they were not going to get pay increases, and both times engagement scores went up! People knew Dave would tell them the way it was.

Key Point: Financier Ray Dalio is well known as the Godfather of radical truth and transparency. He is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, arguably the globe’s biggest and most successful hedge fund. The firm practices Dalio’s principles of extreme truth and transparency throughout the fabric of the company. Radical truth is about making sure that important issues don’t remain hidden, which means creating an environment where employees feel free to speak their mind. Dalio is a believer of this kind of transparency as a safeguard against poor decisions, ideally because people at all levels are constantly exchanging criticisms, making improvements and catching mistakes before they happen. This is very connected to the argument we often make in this blog, for respectfully “talking back.” Radical transparency is the sister to radical truth in that both managers and employees treat one another as they would a partner in a long-term relationship. This means showing mutual respect, looking out for what’s in the other’s best interest, and being crystal clear about who’s responsible for what. This is easier declared than done because too many cultures are conflicted between being “nice” versus being clear.

The ugly side of radical truth and transparency is that when practiced poorly it becomes the cover for meanness and disrespectful behavior. Truth and transparency needs to be reframed as the new “nice,” not warmed over sloppy “meanness.”

Lead Yourself Move:

  1. Become known as a person who is truthful and transparent by mastering the skill of attacking situations, processes or problems and never people. When you understand that literally everything is a process, you can more take on tough issues in a more truthful and transparent way.

Lead Others Move:

  1. What are the ways you lead your group or organization to really value the “niceness” of truth and transparency by being hard nosed, yet respectful? Do you believe people want the raw truth and transparency? Or do you believe you should protect them? Watch Dalio’s TED Talk on how he does it.

Truth and Transparency in Personal Leadership, 

– Lorne 

One Millennial View: There seems to be a reason why “behind the scenes” footage and a chance to glance at “how the sausage is made” is so popular. Allowing for full transparency and radical truth may not always be easy, but there’s an incredible amount of appreciation for it. I have a huge amount of respect for leaders who know how to take off the kiddie gloves, because truth can be hard, but avoiding tough but necessary feedback will sting more for all in the end.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis