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3 simple ways to achieve goals through truth-telling

For a better work environment, listen generously, be clear with your intentions and determine what is fact or fiction


The business landscape is shifting faster than ever before and markets are less predictable. Today's leaders spend more time evaluating threats and opportunities to then base their actions, making efficiency and trust all the more important.

Survey data from Gallup indicates that two-thirds of American employees are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" at work, often because they feel no camaraderie to fellow employees, their manager(s) or employer at large. Those checked out workers are costly to employers: high voluntary turnover rates, increased absenteeism, added employee stress, skyrocketing health care costs, more safety incidents, lower productivity, customer satisfaction ratings and profits. 

And the opposite is true, as well. 

. Businesses with the most engaged employees enjoy higher profits, along with:

· 21 percent increased productivity

· 10 percent higher customer ratings

· 65 percent less voluntary turnover (for low turnover organizations)

· 37 percent less absenteeism

· 49 percent less safety incidents

· 28 percent less shrinkage

When executives wonder why a goal has stalled, business is flat or even why culture seems humdrum, it's often about relationships. Whether relationships are with clients, employees, owners or the consuming audience, TRUTH – and the truth it inspires – is the bedrock.

In the workplace, one of the reasons leaders find results falling short is because relationships get weighed down by fodder that hasn't been expressed or addressed. Leaders can increase their self-awareness and their ability to respond directly to issues in a way that builds relationships and gets results.

For instance, if an employee gossips about a peer and then feels badly about it, then that employee avoids the individual, unintentionally or intentionally withholding information that causes client issues rather than owning the gossip and cleaning up mistaken drama issues.

But what does truth look like in the modern workplace? 

The most successful truth-telling at work can be captured by employee comprehension of three basic concepts:

  1. What is a story and what is fact?
  2. Listening generously to understand, rather than listening to build an argument
  3. Being clear about what each teammate is accountable


Separating facts from fiction is as critical to individual performance as it is to corporate implementation. The content may be different, but fundamentally, when the facts and the stories don't match, conflict crops up.

  • Facts are data-based – what a video camera records
  • Stories are individual or shared interpretation of facts – opinions, beliefs, assumptions

People add meaning to stories, and so the same facts may be experienced differently and conflict follows.


People listen with filters:

  • To be proven right
  • To be a people-pleaser
  • To gather ammunition

When an individual listens to understand, he or she expresses genuine curiosity about someone else's experience or perspective. This doesn't mean agreement is required – it means the individual is willing to see the world through someone else's eyes.


One way to effectively communicate is by creating shared action plans. A powerful clear agreement has two parts:

  1. A clear request that spells out exactly what is desired and by when
  2. An honest response from the person receiving the request in the form of yes, no or a counter-offer

A clear request does not begin with “I need you to” or “I want you to” — it begins with “would you” or “will you.”  It is important that the person receiving the request feels free to answer honestly.

By using truth-telling to create an environment of trust, partnership and accountability, today’s leadership will create cultures they want, the engagement they need and the results they are focused on.

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Sarah White Carr

Denver-based Culture Counts executive coach, Sarah White Carr, works with leaders to build thriving organizations. She brings more than 20 years of experience coaching and facilitating executives in the areas of leadership, presentation skills, communications and sales. Carr excels at simplifying concepts and demystifying what seems like communication and leadership jargon.

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