The Truth Is Out

In our current business climate we have some excellent examples of the need for truth and trust in business practices and communication. A few major corporations have given give lip service to ethical accounting practices resulting in major lay-offs, bankruptcy, a crashing market and an extreme loss of trust in American Business.

Although hundreds of companies work to create ethical environments that engage the whole person and foster forthright communication, many thriving corporations perpetuate systems based on lies and half-truths in the name of business results. I have conducted workshops in which participants report that direct and authentic communication could be considered “taboo” at their workplace. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a story that describes what many employees experience as they witness less than honest communication corrupting multiple levels of management, and significantly reducing productivity. “Putting Lipstick on a Pig” is the common expression used for making everything look good for an up-coming PPI or merger. Cover-ups seem to be admired and encouraged; only business-smart. The way out appears to be a systemic intervention to re-instill the skill for respectful, truthful communication, and principled, committed, behavior.

Business Philosopher, Fernando Flores coins an apt epithet in his new book, Building Trust Cordial Hypocrisy (Warm Insincerity). I love the roll of those words across my tongue because they so effectively describe the root of cynicism in Corporate America. I believe that as a culture we have consistently practiced and have therefore come to expect dishonesty in business. “That’s business! All’s fair in love, war, and business.” We believe we can thrive by telling people what they want to hear, doing whatever it takes, and pretending it didn’t happen, as long as we reach the goal and the result is profitable.

Beyond cynicism, “Cordial Hypocrisy” also results in contempt. Dr. Paul Eckman, in his treatise on deception, “Telling Lies,” full describes how people who deceive and get away with it, ultimately hold their victims in contempt. Contempt is innate to the emotional interpersonal construct of deception.

Certainly there are gray areas in business; times when it is wise to manage information and hold cards close to the chest. But how often do we err to Machiavellian proportions? By our recent headlines it would appear that the disease of dishonesty is deeply rooted in our behaviors and beliefs. It is possibly inherent to one of the foundational values of our culture. The American Dream – the triumph of the individual, which may well embrace action taken from a purely self-centered, achievement-justifies-the-means spirit. No doubt we all sometimes act from this base of survival mentality and are kidding ourselves if we think we don’t. So what do we do? How do we remedy such a subtle, yet insidious practice? I offer (along with Flores and others) a simple answer: by taking a stand.

Somewhere in the midst of corrupt accounting practices, a single employee took a stand. Dared to raise her hand and ask if anyone had noticed. From the single stand of one person, an enormous line of corruption was revealed. America’s awareness has been activated and we are all facing the debilitating consequences of agreeing to turn our heads, in whatever our individual domains may be.

Fernando Flores has been a leader in bringing truth based, conviction driven, results producing communication to organizations for over twenty years. Many of the processes trainers now teach have their genesis in his work. Daniel Goleman in his new book, Primal Leadership, also sites truth as an integral factor of Emotional Intelligence in leadership. When I examine my own materials, I easily sense the inherent influence, or perhaps what I see is the resonance of common Truth.

I believe we can use principle based communication practices to take incremental stands against “Cordial Hypocrisy.” We each must risk “calling it as we see it” for the sake of self-respect and an ethical society. Yet before we can do that, we must give up illusion and the comfort of going easily along with “the flow,” while avoiding curiosity and confrontation. We need to acknowledge and be responsible for the incremental choices we make to turn our heads, as well as for our skill at being warmly insincere to get our goal or hold our position. We can progress by noticing and replacing these unconscious practices with new practices. Truth telling and holding ourselves accountable to higher ethics can be accomplished in an open and respectful manner. We must learn to feel in our guts where we are copping out, giving way to a negative system. Then attend to that feeling – own it, live with it, and allow it to shift; and then move through fear to the resonant, strong feeling we get when we take a stand. Another feeling/principle our country was founded on. It should not be confined to war and a stand against terrorism. It should be felt and used consciously on a moment to moment basis throughout our lives. It is the absence of such diligence that can lead to the downfall of cultural integrity.

We need leadership that commands voracity for truth and trust. And we need individuals who are able to command and deliver the same.

In healthy corporations, truth and trust are created and replicated through ethical and respectful communication practices. The greatest manifestation of these principles happens within each individual and within the space of communication between people. It happens when we commit to develop and use the skills of “Cordial Veracity.” It is demonstrated in HOW communication happens: the intention, quality, structure, and practices of communication. This is where we must work diligently to create a remedy.

Successful team intervention offers a clear example of creating dramatic change through Cordial Veracity and taking a stand. Once a need for intervention is determined, the process begins with interviews to discover each player’s world view, sense of ethics and communication practices. Stage two involves entering an arena of facilitated truth-telling. Although a single stand often initiates the intervention process, it is in this truth-arena that many individuals take a fresh stand for their personal convictions and what they want to create. The next phase involves forming a team vision and then establishing and learning the practices to ensure delivery of the vision. The team agrees to a process of benchmarking and accountability resulting in a system to ensure Cordial Veracity. One of the reasons intervention works is because enough pain has resulted from less than conscious and principled communication to open participants to making a commitment to constructive practices.

Cordial Veracity is the essence of constructive communication and conflict practices and is easily introduced in communication training. Unified communication training aligns organizations to common values and practices. Through the process of facilitation and example, ineffective behaviors are cited, and the need for improvement established.

Principles are presented and agreement is built from discussion. Then the simple experience of role-play allows participants to try-on new practices. A natural accountability occurs as associates then begin to demonstrate effective communication for each other in daily interaction.

I teach communication skills infused with mind-body principles and practices. Embodiment truly empowers and accelerates the assimilation of new communication skills. The effect through the organization is more profound because change is visible and visceral. As we naturally match and mirror our associates, the change and growth is reflected and reinforced. Through simple processes, Cordial Veracity and the power of taking a stand inspire everyday productivity.

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