Forbes calls honesty in leadership one of the 10 major workplace trends for 2015.
“Leaders won’t just have to be good at inspiring and educating, they will have to be able to instill trust through honesty,” predicts Forbes contributor and WorkplaceTrends.com founder Dan Schawbel.
Of all the 2015 workplace trends Schawbel names, honesty in leadership is perhaps the most unassuming. The flashier, more headline-grabbing workplace trends for the year are the rise of Millennials, new technology and rapidly changing economic forces.
But honesty in leadership is a theme throughout all the major workplace trends for 2015.
The increased use of social media in job searches and hiring requires more organizational transparency, for instance. A healthy, engaged workplace culture — which requires honest leaders — is more important than ever as we enter the era of what Schawbel calls the “continuous job search.” And more than half of Gen Y and Z respondents in a recent survey say honesty is the most important trait for being a good leader.
Honesty also fuels the “sense of purpose” that many younger employees seek in their work — which, according to HR Trend Institute, is one of the top workplace trends that will be affecting HR decision-making in the coming year.
Honesty in leadership is more than an absence of lying. It’s a way of communicating that takes practice and commitment. Read on to find out how leaders can transform your organization and develop happier, more dedicated employees.
Why Dishonesty Builds Up Toxicity
Honesty is more than simply not lying, but it’s worth pointing out just how detrimental lies are to workplace culture and to the bottom line.
In his Entrepreneur article “Can Recognition Save Your Start-Up Culture?”, Raphael Crawford-Marks says dishonesty is an escalating behavior that can poison an organization.
“Dishonesty can weaken a workplace culture and open the door to myriad problems such as betrayal and stealing that could quickly corrupt a business,” writes Crawford-Marks, the founder of Bonusly.
He says the seed for dishonesty is planted when there is poor communication or a lack of transparency during times of transition, such as a change in corporate structure. From there it grows and spreads.
To nip dishonesty in the bud, Crawford-Marks recommends that company leadership follow the rules of transparency:
- The manager does what he or she says.
- The manager clearly communicates goals and assignments.
- The manager treats employees with respect.
Leaders have the power to influence workplace culture. By following the rules of transparency, leaders set an example for honest behavior and communication.
The Benefits of Transparency
Of course, not many of us set out to lie or spread dishonesty! Well-meaning leaders often have good intentions, such as protecting employees from bad news, but in the end their lack of transparency hurts the company by creating misunderstandings and a culture of mistrust.
Jayson Demers, AudienceBloom founder and Forbes contributor, calls transparency the “essential leadership trait that can push employees to do their best.”
Demers defines transparency as “a degree of honesty and openness, executed so consistently that your workers trust in your candor.”
Transparency practiced consistently allows for more meaningful relationships, more trustworthiness, faster resolutions to problems, more cooperation and harder-working employees.
How to Be More Honest
Telling the truth is easier said than done. Also, it matters how you deliver that truth: always with a sense of compassion.
Demers’ recommendations for embodying honesty in leadership can be summarized as follows:
- Express opinions openly, even those that may be more critical. Be careful: this does not mean you should say the first negative (and possibly inappropriate or hurtful) thing that pops into your head. But don’t sugarcoat.
- Keep messaging consistent. Don’t tell one thing to one employee and a conflicting story to another employee.
- Do what you say you will (and make promises carefully).
- Listen. Appreciate other opinions even when you disagree.
Another way to become more honest is to reframe how you tell your life story, or the story of an organization.
Harvard Business Review’s 2007 article “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership” explores the shared traits of good leaders and comes to the conclusion that these traits are learned, not genetic. “Leadership,” the authors write, “emerges from your life story.”
Great leaders don’t think of themselves as victims or frame their life story that way to others. Instead, they seek to learn from their negative experiences. The Harvard Business Review explains:
“Rather than seeing themselves as victims[…] authentic leaders used these formative experiences to give meaning to their lives. They reframed these events to rise above their challenges and to discover their passion to lead.”
What does this have to do with honesty? Learning from your life story takes honesty — and courage. It means being open with others about challenges.
When leaders are dishonest, they may be acting on their own shame or embarrassment. But when leaders are honest about challenges, personal or organizational, they open themselves up to a more authentic dialogue — one that includes problem-solving, trust and gratitude.
Honesty takes practice and bravery! Begin your journey to a more honest and transparent culture by examining the ways you can use honesty in your workplace to build trust.
Like honesty in leadership, regularly expressing gratitude builds trust and fosters a culture of appreciation. For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of happiness and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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