We’ve all grown up with this phrase… Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Whether you cut your teeth on Matlock reruns or CSI Miami, you’ve heard the words. Someone has their right hand up and their left on the Bible before testifying in a court of law.
There’s an interesting parallel between business leadership and court proceedings where this phrase resides, and I’d suggest that it’s time for these lines to diverge.
It’s what I explore in my book, The Art of Significance…Law 5: Know the Whole Truth Instead of Believing What You Think.
In a court of law, both the defense and prosecution have pre-existing beliefs about the accused, and they generally only ask questions to which they already know the answer.
As a business leader – someone who strives to live a life of significance – you have to get at the whole truth.
And, chances are…you won’t always want to hear it.
Hearing the Whole Truth will Make You Uncomfortable…And it Should
If you want to feel successful, you’ll only have to ask questions and get the answers you wanted – not the answers you needed.
I see this all too often. Employers ask leading questions and get responses that confirm their pre-existing beliefs.
Significant leaders are prepared to ask tough questions and get tough – sometimes unflattering – answers. They are seeking the whole truth.
The Disney corporation is renowned for exceptional customer service. Why? Because their leaders are willing to hear the bad news. They are exceptional leaders.
Disney doesn’t rely solely on customer feedback surveys to assess their success or failure at delivering a quality product. They ask the people who are providing the product about their firsthand experience…
They’ve built a corporate culture that lends itself to reflection. Their executives are willing to hold up a mirror, and a microscope, to find out how they can improve an already captivating and popular tourist experience. They’re open to feedback.
As a result, their resorts have a well-earned reputation for being “the happiest place on Earth”…
3 Forms of Feedback You Can Practice
As we strive to increase our frequency of feedback, it helps to distinguish the three different forms and how they enhance team performance.
1. Factual Feedback
Factual feedback constitutes the cold, hard facts of our current reality; data to which we assign accountability without blame.
A person’s performance does not improve or increase with blame. That serves only to make the person feel worse.
Factual feedback, by contrast, is neither positive nor negative – it just is. It tells your team how close they are to achieving sales targets, and meeting quality control objectives. They see the scoreboard and understand the measure.
2. Motivational Feedback
The cheering section.
This isn’t the same as seeking a pat on the back for some minor success. Rather, it’s giving a colleague a boost when they’re on the home stretch. It’s acknowledging their achievements to date and urging them on to continue their efforts.
It’s recognizing the effort someone made to be better today than they were yesterday and singing their praises.
We need motivational feedback to get us to hustle. It triggers the adrenaline and endorphins we need to dig deep and compete.
3. Educational Feedback
Educational feedback is correctional coaching.
It’s the teacher telling the child, “I love the way you attempted this math problem, but this is the change you must understand and implement to get the correct answer.”
Your team can be highly qualified and not know some aspect of how to deliver your vision. They have to be taught.
How Do You Drill Down to the Whole Truth?
If your company is open to genuine feedback – without judgment or recrimination – you’re well on your way.
By increasing how often we receive all three forms of feedback, we cannot only change our behavior, but we also can pick the most appropriate behavior to positively affect the outcome of a task, event, or game.
Feedback, in all its forms, confronts us with the clear choices we face, and then it’s up to us to make the right decision.
If our goal is significance, no single one of these forms of feedback will suffice because no single form on its own will yield the whole truth.
Here are four steps you can take in your search for the whole truth…
1. Make a List
As you’ll know by now, I’m a big believer in lists. They help you focus and keep you accountable.
So, list the seven major areas of life: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, financial, and familial.
Immediately identify the feedback systems you have in place to measure your level of performance in each area. Whatever your system is, increase the frequency of feedback.
If your business still prints quarterly reports, change it to a monthly report, a monthly to every two weeks, a weekly to a daily.
If you check to see how your kids are doing in school monthly, try doing it every two weeks.
Guaranteed: Your ability to make informed decisions will increase immediately.
2. Challenge Your Bias
Pick a controversial topic – abortion, gun control, Middle Eastern politics – and reflect on your current beliefs…then do the research.
As you gather information, separate emotion from fact and circumstantial evidence from opinion.
Then, write a one-page essay defending the opposite view from what you already believed.
3. Research Your Sources
Look up the most influential people in American media, including the highest-level producers and decision-makers on the air, the most talented writers and directors in television, and the top editors at newspapers, magazines, publishers.
Try to understand their perspective and filter accordingly because bias is a human condition and unavoidable. There is no such thing as a neutral journalist, leader, pastor, parent…we all have a history and a set of moral values that we don’t get to check at the door when we enter the workplace.
4. Earn Your Promotion
It’s essential to know the whole truth about getting a promotion. As great as your current knowledge and skills may be for your current job, are they the skills needed at the next level?
The top sales professional doesn’t necessarily make a great manager; an all-pro athlete rarely makes a great coach.
To make sure you are prepared for advancement, name two skills you currently excel in and plan how you can leverage those skills for promotion.
Next, name two skills or knowledge sets you will need at the next level and sign up for classes or informational interviews to equip you to get that promotion.
Are You Ready for the Truth?
The whole truth?
Success comes from working for an organization, but significance comes from working on yourself.
It’s possible to make self-improvement a daily endeavor. Just like an exercise regime, you can build the muscles it takes to live a life of significance.
If you’d like to learn more about how to begin that journey, I’m here to help, so let’s get started.
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