Because access to information (and misinformation) is so easily available and spreads so quickly—and because a diverse workforce makes for fertile ground for growing misconceptions—the need for honesty in leadership has never been greater. In fact, leaders can’t just be honest, they must make their honesty known. We live in a world where perceptions are reality, and people tend to hear only those messages that support what they already think. The battle against confirmation bias is often a battle to align perceptions with truth. The hard work of making truth known is why consistent, effective communication is so vital to leadership. It’s almost impossible for leaders to over-communicate an important message—you can’t say it too often or find too many different ways to share it.
When lived out well, a commitment to honesty and to making your honesty known will shape perceptions or your leadership in ways that strengthen culture. The four simple actions outlined in this video can help enhance those perceptions.
One thing I found in running the company is perceptions matter. And unfortunately perceptions are out of your control, to a certain degree and especially with social media. Things fly around. It’s just amazing what you read and rumors happen that just aren’t true.
And so leaders need to figure out how they control perceptions in an organization. And I think they mostly do it through communication. Sometimes it’s what you say and sometimes it’s what you don’t say.
There are four key things that I focused on as a leader to try to control perceptions.
One is that you’ve got to communicate over and over and over. People don’t always hear what you say the first time. They don’t hear what you say the second time and sometimes not the third time. You’d be amazed at how many times people repeated back what you had to say and it was not what you said. And so I found that you have to communicate it over and over and over.
The second thing is you’ve got to avoid procrastination, especially in emails and other correspondence. You know some people are sort of fine with the fact that you don’t get back to them. Other people look at and say you know, “Walt hasn’t gotten back to me and so what does that mean in terms of the way he thinks of me?” It’s really interesting how people or some people feel disrespected when they don’t you know, when you don’t respond so you’ve got to respond quickly.
The third thing is you got to be aware of silence. Sometimes leaders are silent and there’s an elephant in the room and everybody knows there’s an elephant in the room. The leader needs to address this and a leader is silent. And silence is deafening. And unfortunately sometimes it leads to a lack of trust because you’re not really sure what a leader thinks because a leader hasn’t addressed what you want them to address.
And the fourth thing is you can never let pride get in the way of the truth. Trust me, there’s a lot of times when the truth you’re not sure of as a leader. But one thing’s for sure is that if you’re close to the way you kind of think about it, that’s the story and it may not be the right story. And the one thing I found is that the truth always comes out — it’s just a question of when — and it will make you look bad if you don’t follow that line. And oftentimes pride is the thing that leads to leaders that aren’t completely truthful.
So I think if you deal with those four things, it’s amazing how you can control perceptions. You can’t control it completely but you can manage the perceptions in your organization and again build trust in your organization which is exactly what leaders need to do.