The Importance of Honesty vs Niceness

Might our apprehension about becoming the dreaded “worst boss” unwittingly steer us in that direction? Gallup’s research reveals that businesses make the wrong managerial choices a staggering 82% of the time, leaving just one out of every ten managers genuinely effective in their role. Hence, the pivotal query that every team or company leader should pose is: How can I guarantee that I don’t find myself enshrined in my team’s roster of “worst bosses”?

#1 Unmasking Your Blindspots

In business, as in life, honest feedback is a crucial component of personal growth; yet often, it is feared, neglected or misconstrued. Leaders harbor unacknowledged shortcomings that may hinder their effectiveness, and it’s essential to bring these to light. To help a leader realize their blind spots, open lines of communication must be created.

Feedback is most effective when it is delivered by someone who passes the credibility test, as their words are more likely to be heard and accepted. It must be objective and focus on the leader’s vision and the impact on the organization. Misunderstanding arises when the intention behind the feedback is unclear, making it essential to communicate the purpose of the feedback: to aid the leader’s growth and to support their aspiration to become a better leader. Remember, honesty will always top niceness when it comes to feedback.

#2 Maintaining The Balance

Leaders frequently wear a dual hat, assuming the roles of both a leader and a contributor. Balancing these responsibilities can pose a challenge, particularly within small companies where leaders often need to engage in hands-on problem-solving. Although this dynamic may evolve with shifts in the business’s scale, it remains crucial to establish an early precedent for your leadership role. This entails providing support and uncovering issues rather than exclusively resolving them yourself. The ultimate objective is to lay a solid foundation that facilitates growth without impeding progress.

It’s important to note that the goal isn’t to achieve a flawless equilibrium but rather to recognize when to switch roles and when to delegate.

#3 Aligning Personal and Company’s Vision

It’s just as important to align individual personal visions with the company’s vision. The challenge arises when employees harbor visions that aren’t aligned with the company or when they lack ambitious personal growth goals. However, acknowledging that an individual’s motivation might substantially differ from yours is invaluable information.

Understanding these personal visions helps create a grand team vision where all personal visions contribute. Even if some employees’ personal visions do not align with the company’s progression, it’s essential to recognize and utilize this information to steer company growth and employee performance.

At Business of Software Europe 2019, we had the opportunity to gain nuanced insights from Claire Lew, the CEO of Know Your Team. She suggested a very interesting paradox in leadership – the contest between honesty and niceness.

Claire’s company has empowered over 15,000 leaders around the globe, and the essence of her work revolves around honest leadership and avoiding the trap of becoming an ineffective boss.

#4 Building Trust

Trust forms the core of effective leadership. Surprisingly, a survey of 600 managers in the tech industry found that traditional trust-building methods like team retreats, recognition programs, and transparency in information were rated as some of the least effective approaches. Instead, the findings revealed that trust is truly forged through qualities such as humility, clarity, and reliability.

Leadership necessitates the acknowledgment of mistakes, the transparent explanation of decision-making rationale, and the steadfast commitment to fulfilling promises. These trust-building foundations demand no financial investment, only the genuine authenticity and unwavering dedication of the leader.

One significant pitfall that can lead to ineffective leadership lies in one-on-one meetings. A recent survey unveiled a 17% gap between a manager’s perceived effectiveness of such meetings and their team members’ perception. Rather than focusing solely on updates, one-on-one discussions should be oriented towards uncovering potential issues and gathering feedback, underscoring the importance of managers being adequately prepared for these interactions.

Claire emphasized the pivotal role of honesty in leadership, spanning trust-building, improved communication, and the cultivation of an open working atmosphere. Nonetheless, she cautioned against letting honesty overshadow kindness entirely. Leaders must strive to strike the right balance between the two, highlighting their connection to honesty while maintaining a tempered and considerate approach in their interactions.

So, whether in offering feedback, understanding visions, or defining your leadership role, practicing honesty over niceness plays a pivotal role in your leadership.

You can rewatch Claire Lew’s full BoS session here.

This post was generated by AI using a series of commands and code (courtesy of Greg Baugues) that helped Chat GPT know what to look for and why it was being written – not as a final piece but as a first draft to be edited by human.

Watch the first episode of Better w/AI where Greg takes me through the process AI can run to help us here at BoS write first drafts of blogs and posts that we can tailor to make it more relevent and useful and correct.

You can catch Greg at BoS USA 2023 where he’ll be doing this live on stage and giving real tools and help to those in the audience as he discusses how using AI can help your team rather than replace your team.

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