There’s an old saying that one of the benefits of telling the truth is that it makes it a lot easier to remember what you said.

It’s a sad reality that people in most companies spend a lot of time lying to each other. This is about sins of omission more than outright falsehoods. We spend a lot of time and energy holding things back and avoiding telling each other the absolute truth.

If you wonder whether this is true in your business, try this simple experiment. The next time you get your leadership team together, ask them to grab a sheet of paper and write down—for their eyes only—three things that aren’t being discussed openly and honestly. See if their pens move. If they do, and they will, then you have an honesty issue.

Please know that it just makes you normal. This issue exists virtually everywhere.

Why it Happens

As Patrick Lencioni points out in his landmark book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the main reasons people in most companies don’t tell each other the truth is that they don’t trust each other enough to take the risk.  The other reason is that we’re taught from earliest childhood not to do it (“If you can’t say something nice …”). Saying something that might hurt someone’s feelings is uncomfortable for most of us, and we’re never taught how to do it.

What it Costs

Holding back the truth costs your company in two ways. First, it consumes both time and mental energy. That’s time and energy your people can’t put into the actual work that you’re paying them for. Second, it inhibits the free flow of information throughout the business. This slows you down. It also results in decisions that are made on incomplete information.

Because these effects are so diffused throughout any business, it is difficult if not impossible to put a dollar cost on them. However, when we help our clients instill the habit of truth-telling, the culture becomes much healthier and more cohesive. We consistently see growth, profit and engagement improve. So, we know these effects are both real and significant.

What You Can Do

Turning your company into one where truth-telling is taken for granted requires building the level of trust among team members. It also requires teaching people how to say difficult things to one another in ways that are productive.

In the spirit of openness and honesty that’s the subject of this post, we owe it to you to say that this is one of the hardest issues for owners and leaders to solve on their own. EOS®, the management system we help clients implement, creates repeated opportunities for people to be transparent with each other. As coaches in the room, we spend a lot of our time helping team members learn to use those situations to build trust. We facilitate difficult discussions and teach people how to say things they’ve been taught their entire lives that they’re not supposed to say. Having an experienced third-party in the room makes it go better and faster.

What’s in it for You?

When you start down this path, you’ll discover that everyone already knew the elephant was in the room, and that they’re relieved to finally be able to talk about it. Having the hard conversation requires trust, but it also builds trust. It becomes self-reinforcing, with trust and honesty growing side-by-side.

The best news is that when your people realize that not only is no one going to die when they say difficult things to one another, but that things will get better right away, you won’t be able to stop them. Your company will become that rare one where people tell the truth. And you will profit from it.

If that sounds good to you, click here and we’ll start the conversation.