The Bold Side of Vulnerability in Creating Fearless Engagement – Part 1

on September 5, 2012

Realism and truth telling are at the heart of authentic engagement and change. The challenge is that rarely have we seen organizations of any type, profit or non-profit, where people tell each other the truth. And the higher you go in an organization, the worse it gets.

As a matter a fact, when we ask people for three safe harbors where truth is occasionally spoken, they almost instantly and unanimously tell us that it is at the water cooler, in the hallway, and in the bathroom. As truth telling declines, cost, bureaucracy, dissatisfaction, redundancies, delays, and lack of confidence in the future all rise. The last one is a big deal.

The practice of embracing, honoring, and telling the truth may be the single most significant catalyst to personal and organizational change. So why don’t we tell each other the truth? Why do we find it so hard to authentically look in the mirror? Why do we seem to be protectors of what is, versus builders of what could be?

Seven fears work to insidiously seep into our work being and cause most of us to play it safe rather than play to win. These are the truth telling fears that we constantly see and hear that hold people back:

The Seven Fears

  1. The fear of indictment for past performance.
  2. The fear of being branded and punished for not being on board.
  3. The fear of offending a teammate.
  4. The fear of not being accepted by the team.
  5. The fear that speaking the truth will zap valuable time and energy and never be resolved anyway (“don’t open that can of worms”).
  6. The fear of not being valued if “I say what I really think.”
  7. The general fear that it is just not safe to talk about the truth.

The funny thing is that many people talk about the seventh item in ways that suggest that something bad will happen to them, but rarely can they give real examples of anything bad that has happened to anyone else who has spoken the truth in the past.

The antidote to this near epidemic of truthlessness at an organization, team, and individual level is finding a way to safely have the critical conversations that most of us don’t know how to have.

What would your team be like from a culture and results standpoint if you could have all the conversations that you know you should be having, that most matter to you, and if your primary fears were negated?

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