Candor: An Explanation

Candor: An Explanation

The most straightforward piece I’ve read on candor comes from Jack Welch’s book, Winning. In Chapter Two, he refers to candor as, “the biggest dirty little secret in business,” but more specifically as people not expressing themselves in a straightforward way and withholding their comments and criticism; usually in an effort to avoid conflict.

Welch summarizes the positive effects of candor on an organization as:

  1. Create better outcomes: get more people in the conversation which leads to more minds and more ideas.
  2. Speed things up using the process: surface, debate, improve, decide.
  3. Cut costs: replace boring meetings, pointless updates, and presentations with real conversations about the core issues.

Why aren’t we candid: we’re taught not to be at a young age. Sensitive or awkward issues are softened or avoided. Our parents scolded us for pointing out something that we thought was obvious but “wasn’t a nice thing to point out.” But the main reason we’re not candid is simple, it’s easier not to be.

So how do we reverse the trend and our learned childhood behaviours to create candor in our companies? Reward the behaviours you’d like to see more of and lead by example, no matter where you are in the hierarchy (although it is easier the higher up you are).

What steps do you take within your organization to promote and reward candor?

Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

  • Molly Burke
    Posted at 18:34h, 06 October Reply

    In working with my clients, I notice that one of the biggest barriers to candor is a lack of confidence. Folks feel trepidation and their voices are squelched. They have the notion that they are not somehow qualified to express themselves with candor. I believe the old business paradigms of repressive top-down management controls need to give way to a more dynamic model of cooperative collaboration born of individual purpose-awareness coupled with the purpose of the organization and the job position or project.

    Clarity of purpose leads to more effective management and substantially more empowered employees. People who know that they are fulfilling themselves at a deep core level while at work are much more productive. They exhibit an ownership mentality, which enhances confidence and competence.

    A purpose driven work culture naturally encourages on task, cooperative candor.

    They key is to encourage cooperative, collaborative candor built upon mutual respect and shared goals.

    Molly Burke, Queen of Confidence
    I’ve bottled confidence, and it’s for sale.

  • Perez Christina
    Posted at 18:46h, 06 October Reply

    I have seen that book before

  • maria loscerbo
    Posted at 20:50h, 06 October Reply

    I see way too much reticence. I wish there were more straight shooters in this world! Here here for chapter two.

  • Mark Mawhinney
    Posted at 06:58h, 07 October Reply

    This is a very important trait in any really successful manager and within successful teams. In every circumstance where I have found effective and honest communication the teams and leaders have excelled! Winning is an easy read with some great rules of thumb.

  • Baila Lazarus
    Posted at 11:38h, 08 October Reply

    Candor is an essential part of integrity, which should be at the basis of all activities – professional and personal. It is the first directive in a well-known description of integrity that starts: “Integrity is nothing hidden, being truthful and honest…”
    The problem is, people’s “honest” comments are usually prefaced with caveats that set up the comment as something wrong, so the recipient is already listening from a point of view as something is wrong, and this is where defensiveness crops up.
    Coming from a point of view of what works and what doesn’t work, taking “wrong” out of the equation can lead to very successful abilities to be candid.

  • Mike Knapp
    Posted at 11:14h, 09 October Reply

    Candor sounds like setting up healthy conflict (as described in the 5 dysfunctions of a team) – which is so important to having a well engaged team where everyone contributes.

    Getting to the point where people can be candid, without fear of repercurssions, requires a lot of trust. It’s a path well worth working towards – but I don’t see it nearly often enough.

  • Mirjana Galovic
    Posted at 07:44h, 19 October Reply

    In spite of people saying how much they like it and appreciate it, I don’t think it’s true. I
    came from the culture that’s very direct. While all my subordinates (here, in Canada) always appreciated it (since I am encouraging and supportive of their strengths and never criticize them as persons) and the students I taught, my previous supervisor always pointed this out as my weakness and how ‘some people might be threatened’. Notice SOME PEOPLE and MIGHT BE. On the other hand, the students feedback was that ‘While I was very direct, Iwas the only instructor who treated them as adults and as equal”. No offence, but I think that Canadians are not ‘wired’ that way. Not longago I read an article written by a young-ish American woman who came to live and work in Vancouver – she called it a “Canadian sandwich”: ‘positive-negative-hope you can improve’. Feedback here is seldom given directly -at least that’s been my experience.

    I hope you didn’t mind my candour.

  • Maria
    Posted at 08:37h, 21 October Reply

    Unfortunately some people equate or interpret candor as being “aggressive” or “opinionated”. Mike your post is generating some good discussion. Being candid should build trust but I’ve seen many people take it the wrong way. I like people who say what needs to be said rather than those who walk the line or choose to say nothing at all. I think there is an art to being candid – honest but diplomatic seems to work well. It takes courage to say what needs to be said! – Maria Loscerbo

  • mikedesjardins
    Posted at 15:32h, 21 October Reply

    I really appreciate the dialogue and comments on this post. It’s a topic that’s important to me. Authenticity and the willingness to promote a culture that communicate for understanding, which in many cases has to do with listening first, then putting forward my thoughts, is critical for promoting healthy debate.

    From a practical standpoint, one of the better approaches we work with clients on is first framing the context, “I have some feedback for you, are you able to listen.” Then provide praise or corrective feedback or simply a difficulty using language such as, “one difficulty I’m having working with you is…”, “what I appreciate about working with you is…” If every time I’m asked if I’m okay with feedback it’s corrective I’ll learn to brace myself. If it’s a blend of “good” and “bad” I’ll be more interested to hear what someone has to say with an open mind.

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