Small Business and Startups: Telling the Truth

Telling the truth conjures images of cherry trees and axes. Violence followed by confession leads to redemption right? In business the truth can be elusive, even fungible. As much as we try to craft the perfect projections, what happens in business is never predictable and outcomes can not be conjured from a crystal ball.

So while I can not claim to tell you where a business will be next month or next year, I can tell you that the most important aspect of building and nurturing a great team is trust. Your team has to have trust in you and trust in each other and that can only be created with patience, honesty, and transparency. Shared experience and keen focus go a long way to building a culture of respect and honesty.

Strong managers should never be afraid to tell the truth to their team, as difficult as the truth may be. This goes for everything from performance reviews to financial results and it holds true whether the information you share is positive or negative. Remember that if you have done a good job in hiring, you are probably surrounded by some pretty smart and intuitive people. They figure things out, they keep their collective finger on the company pulse and, in many cases, they will have a better idea of what’s happening than you might expect. If you are truly transparent with your team, the truth should not come as a surprise to them, but rather as a confirmation that they are working in a company where they are valued and trusted.

Truth-telling does not conflict with creating a humane and warm working atmosphere. On the contrary it supports the fabric of a strong company and a robust team. But truth-telling take courage and truth-telling entails risk. We need to understand that, like so much of what we do as leaders, we’re being watched closely; our team wants to know that we walk the walk, not simply talk and talk. Honesty and transparency are where that begins and where it ends.

Photo, Wikimedia: Sodium amytal – the “truth serum”