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The quality of being honest, the quality of being fair and truthful : the quality of being honest, adherence to the facts, sincerity, fairness and straightforwardness of conduct


Businesses, their employees, and their customers stand to win from a culture of honesty. But how do you create something as abstract-sounding as a culture? Every business is different but here are five suggested approaches :

1) Reserve Your Judgement
Humans are hardwired for judgment. While it certainly has its place, judgment kills honesty. If you want honest feedback from your employees, don’t denounce their ideas in a brainstorming session. If employees think you don’t like their ideas, they’ll stop sharing entirely and you’ll miss out on a lot of potential innovation.

2) Don’t let yourself get mired in negativity.
Honest leaders address the downsides or the challenges of an idea but they don’t judge. They also know that not every idea is a winner but that a golden idea can come from anyone at any time. Support your employees when they come to you with ideas, even if they don’t work out.

3) Create Feedback Systems
You want employees to be honest, but have you set up the right systems and processes for productive honesty? After all, the truth can hurt.

First, coach your team on how to deliver feedback. It’s important that everyone on your team knows how to be transparent without being cruel and when people understand how to give honest feedback, they’re better suited to receive it.

Second, be available to your team. Whether that means creating one-on-ones or instituting an open-door policy, make sure your team has access to each other and to management.

Third, consider anonymous reporting systems. I’m not always a fan of anonymity but for employees who don’t feel empowered to attach their name to a piece of feedback, this can be important.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to set up a process for employee coaching. While most people see these as “critical evaluations,” I look at them through the lens of an honest coaching conversation. It isn’t your job to make employees feel bad, it’s your job to help them improve in every way possible. Focus on what they do well and where they need to improve. Give them resources, ideas, and support so they know how to meet your expectations.

4) Act on Honest Feedback
Did your employee tell you that users will hate a new product feature? Or did they mention that your diversity initiative doesn’t go far enough for people of color? Whatever the issue, if an employee gives you honest feedback, it is important that you consider it.

In an honest environment, people will only say what they feel if they know you’ll act on their feedback. As a leader, you have to put this information to work. That means, at a minimum, having a conversation about the employee’s concerns and soliciting solutions from them.

Feedback builds a stronger team and a stronger business. Yes, it means there is some uncomfortable and hard work to be done but hard work translates into a stronger bottom line for the long haul.

5) Empower Employees to Make Mistakes
It’s common for employees to lie at work, especially when they make a mistake. Most of these mistakes are honest oversights, though, and not intentional screw-ups. Even then, employees fear they’ll lose their job or get reprimanded by their boss, which may cause them to try to cover up their mistakes.

With honest leadership, employees are empowered to make mistakes and learn from them. So instead of lashing out at your team for making an error, have an open conversation and try to see what went wrong. Don’t use this as a witch hunt but rather as a post-mortem to see what needs to be fixed. Look at mistakes as a process issue, not a people issue.

Once employees realize it’s okay to fail, they’ll not only feel more satisfied at work, but they’ll feel supported enough to take bigger risks.

6) Deal with Dishonest Behavior
Unfortunately, you’re going to have some bad apples in the bunch. When honesty is a core value for your business, you need to hold everyone accountable to that value. That means having systems in place to deal with dishonest behavior.

Define this in your employee handbook. What qualifies as dishonest behavior? At what point does dishonesty warrant action? Decide now so you won’t be caught off-guard when an errant employee crosses the line.

Honesty really is the best policy. It’s not easy and it might sting from time to time, but when you do it right, honesty will create a better work environment and position your brand to be more successful in the long-run.

It all has to start with you. Model the culture you want to see. Hold yourself accountable to the same standard you hold employees to. Stay competitive, deliver a better product, and build an engaged team of skilled workers to take your business to the next level. Just do it with honesty and transparency at the forefront.

All Hands In
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