With All Due Respect
Truth, justice, and the American way.
The truth shall set you free.
… the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…
From the deepest religious and philosophical explorations, to that childhood moment when your mom asks who wrote in crayon on the back of her bedroom door … Note to reader: If you’re going to deny an act of vandalism, you might consider graffiti that says something other than your name. Our relationship with the truth can define our relationships with those around us, if not our definition of who we are.
Some would argue that there is absolute truth, perhaps that there are absolute truths, immutable realities that can neither be denied nor debated. Perhaps.
Most often, though, from our homes, to our political campaigns, to our organizations, we are not dealing with the “black and white” of absolute truths, but in the “grey” of our truth. We engage each other and the world from our point of view. We process events based on our worldview. We do or don’t think “Don from accounting” looks good in his new shirt based on our personal feelings around pastels. We live in and operate from our truth. And truth, our truth, is at the core of every inclusive culture.
Inclusion: Where Colleagues Meet
Inclusion is the leveraging and valuing of differences to achieve superior results.
Of course, any discussion of inclusion can get complex quickly. Diversity. Dimensions. Cultural Competence. Our vocabulary expands along with our collective understanding. It is all the more important then, that we get to the essential truth of our definition.
Before we achieve superior results, we leverage differences.
Before we leverage differences, we value differences.
Before we value differences, we recognize differences.
Before we recognize differences, we get to know each other’s truths.
Bottom line: In order to foster the kind of inclusive environment that drives superior results, I must get to know your truth … and you must get to know mine.
The Truth About Meetings, The Meetings About Truth
DON’T PANIC! This article is NOT recommending more meetings. The last thing any of us wants is more meetings, am-i-right?
No, here, we are considering different types of meetings, sometimes figurative, often informal meetings that both reflect and shape the cultures of our organizations. To put it simply, where we meet me is a clear indication of where we are in terms of creating an inclusive organizational culture.
Where do meetings happen in your organization? Not the gatherings of human beings devising increasingly clever ways of checking their devices without detection. No. We’re talking about the real meetings, the gatherings where truths are fully shared.
If I wanted to tell you my truth in your organization, where would you meet me? Here’s what it means if you would…
… meet me in the bathroom.
Ah, yes. The infamous meeting after the meeting. Whether it actually happens in the bathroom or behind a quickly closed office door, this is where we whisper what we chose not to say aloud.
This is concealed truth. We’ve all heard the old saying that “silence is golden”. In our organizations, however, it can be anything but golden. In fact, it can be corrosive.
When we withhold our truths, uncomfortable as they may be, we doom our teams, business units, and organizations to sub-optimal performance. The feeling may be, “Sure, there are major problems with the way Linda wants to manage inventory, but that’s not my problem”, but when money is lost, jobs may be next. And then, it’s everybody’s problem.
Now, “Linda” also has a critical role to play in bringing those insights from the bathroom to the conference room. Leaders must invite feedback and receive it constructively in order to foster a culture where differing views are shared, where people feel safe sharing them.
Ultimately, there may come a time when debate is closed and a decision must be made. Up to and through that time, however, we want to leverage differences and that means everyone needs to bring their truths from behind closed doors.
… meet me outside.
If a co-worker suggests we meet them outside, beware they might not be focused on enjoying the fresh air. (I’m, generally, a pleasure. So, I’m really just guessing here.) We may be hitting them with brutal truth. And, though, we may defend our approach with phrases like, “The truth hurts”, and “I’m not PC”, the reality is that no one likes to be brutalized and no one likes those who brutalize them.
Brutal truth damages individual relationships and, eventually, organizational culture, as a whole. When brutal truth is standard operating practice, we run the risk of bullying cloaked in “honesty”, of being loud taking the place of being right. Eventually, talent is lost to disengagement, if not the competition.
When I witness brutal truth being practiced, I am reminded of my time playing high school football. When we scrimmaged in practice, our coach almost always barked the reminder, “Don’t hurt our guys!”
The message was clear: Let’s play hard. Let’s get tougher. Let’s get better. But let’s not lose anyone we need on game day. We’d be wise to adopt that thinking in our next staff meeting or when crafting that “reply all” email.
Don’t hurt our people. We’re going to need them come “game day”.
… meet me in the middle.
If you meet me in the bathroom … we preserve peace, avoiding conflict. Unfortunately, we also avoid superior results.
If you meet me outside … we exhibit trust as we share our truths. Unfortunately, we also erode trust as we brutalize our colleagues with that truth.
When we meet in the middle … we balance peace and trust. When we meet in the middle, we share respectful truth.
When we share respectful truth, we exhibit the sense not to say “That’s a stupid idea, Linda”, and the courage to say something. When we share respectful truth, we make room for others to do the same. When we share respectful truth we live inclusion, fostering an inclusive culture and facilitating superior results.
If you are ready to take your performance to the next level, to realize new levels of success, personally and organizationally, you can neither afford to meet in the bathroom nor outside.
It’s time to meet in the middle. And that’s truth … with all due respect.
The Kaleidoscope Group