I’m feeling uncomfortable. My heart is thumping as I type these words. I’m scared I’ll upset you and be ostracized before I’ve made my case.
I’ll forge ahead. I’m choosing to lead this uncomfortable conversation.
All humans lie. White lies, fabrications, misrepresentations, convenient interpretations, half-truths, exaggerations. I’ve lied to family, employees, colleagues and co-workers and I’ve definitely lied to myself.
I can dismiss my lies as harmless knowing what I now know. I used them as a way to protect myself from looking bad, or to overstate my importance, or minimise personal damage. You know what I’m talking about:
What we say
“I’m running late; the traffic is awful”
“I didn’t know that would happen”
“I can’t come over”
“I worked till past midnight on that project
What we don’t say
I’ve cut it fine and I need an excuse
I did but it felt unsafe to speak up
The truth is I don’t want to
It was 10:30pm when I packed up
So why bring it up?
On The Change Room Podcast, my co-creator of ‘extraordinary conversations’ Ms Lorna Patten would say: “when nothing changes, there’s a truth yet to be told”.
Listen to the news, assess the stories, take the pulse of business and you’ll hear judgement, blame, drama and hypocrisy.
There is a truth to be told. It is standard human behaviour to exaggerate, inflate, minimise, avoid, deny and bend the truth, but while we continue to pretend otherwise, we’re forced to play the game of “I won’t say anything if you don’t”.
You know, when you utter something less than factual and you recognise that others do the same. You also know the feeling of internal conflict when you say one thing and do another. Our judgement and intolerance of ourselves and others is not only harsh; it is unnecessary and exhausting.
For example: this pandemic is far from over. Prepare yourself for more fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
This is a call to evolve the way we operate and communicate. Acknowledge fear and choose to engage our big beautiful brains in more innovative, creative and strategic thinking.
Only a few months ago your team operated within the confines of a traditional office. There was eye contact, connection and energy exchange. Everyone was ‘seen’.
Now they’re scattered, disconnected and discombobulated.
Will you stoke their fear? Or lead, learn and teach as you go? The choice is yours.
It’s only natural to ask “What are people doing on my time?” and the truth is you already know. But will you admit it?
They do the same thing you do.
Put a load of washing on, chop firewood, duck out to see a friend or organise their kids’ birthday party.
If, as leaders, we can’t admit the truth and acknowledge our humanity, any culture of trust is built on a house of cards. Why should they share their truth if you won’t?!
Trust is the context in which your culture exists. You can trust they’ll take the dog for a walk and watch TV on ‘company hours’ while also trusting them to get the job done.
You have a talented team, doing the best they can under extraordinary circumstances.
These people are valuable; they bring colour, perspective and ideas into the fold.
Compassion, acceptance and appreciation could underpin a new context of trust while you find smarter ways to work in this new world. Take the lead and refuse to agree with all the fear-mongering. Approach this time with an open heart. You have the chance to unlock true potential rather than smothering it in fear and lies.
Make way for a new way.
Don’t know how? Just ask.