Allergic to Truth–Part 2

People who lapse into telling the truth are subtly or explicitly penalized. Maintaining the appearance that there are no problems becomes more important than fixing problems. Problems grow.  In such a company, people come to some destructive, but accurate, conclusions: 1) Customers who don’t know any better are most likely to buy from us, so let’s look for fools rather than for qualified prospects. 2) Talented employment candidates who see the truth about our company do not accept our offers, so let’s cultivate candidates with low standards, poor discernment, and few alternatives. 3) People who candidly identify problems do not get ahead in this company, so I’ll just go along and say that everything’s fine. 4) I put up with this, so I myself must be a lowlife.

Here are some quick diagnostic tests. When someone new in your company says something true, but uncomfortable and generally unspoken, do you look around to see what the reaction will be? When someone other than the usual salesperson meets with big new prospective customers, is there a fear that damaging information will slip out? Do people around you spend a lot of time packaging, massaging, and spin doctoring? Or, alternatively, is yours a company that aggressively seeks the truth, tackles problems, welcomes improvements, and knows that the more customers, vendors, and employees know, the better the company will look?

The truth allergy begins at the personal level, usually at the top of the organization, and usually is as evident in the small things as in the big. Why does it happen? Because a lie of any kind is so often a quick easy way to avoid work and pain. If truth allergy is advanced, the prospect of kicking the habit can look horribly difficult, and so sometimes an outside shock is required.If things go well, the change can be invigorating and full of hope. With truth re-enthroned, people can be free to address real problems and find real solutions, instead of in maintaining a sheltered, fragile fantasy.

The CFO ought to be the chief truth officer. He can make the debits and credits tell the truth, and that’s a good start. He can also find truth in all areas of the business, and systematically measure it, report it, bring it to light, and force people to discuss it. He can teach people not to be afraid of it truth, but rather to do what it takes to make truth a friend.

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