This post is by Robert Klein, author of “Klein Group Instrument for Effective Leadership and Participation in Teams” and researcher at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type. Learn more about the KGI here.
Honesty is the best policy, or so they say. If you work in a team, you know that being “straight up” with colleagues is appreciated and praised. But what happens when your gut tells you that saying the honest thing might not be the smart thing?
When I was researching team behavior and group dynamics for a self-assessment tool called the “Klein Group Instrument for Effective Leadership and Participation in Teams” (a mouthful I know — let’s call it the KGI for short), I discovered that in the workplace, there are four honesty “hot spots.” And perhaps more importantly, we found that individuals who were most successful and respected at work were also the ones who knew how to navigate those areas.
So here are some thoughts based on our research for developing the KGI instrument. These are four situations where you can maximize your ability to be honest at work, without pushing the envelope too far.
With your team members: In developing the KGI instrument, our research showed that you can be a more effective team member if you manifest what is referred to as “Positive Group Affiliation.” We’re talking about team spirit and mutual understanding, and nothing will undermine that feeling faster than being untruthful with your teammates. If tension arises, share your feelings and values — this helps everyone work through interpersonal conflict. Timing can be important here. If you think the truth might hurt, it is best to share your thoughts on an individual basis, allowing everyone to feel safe.
With your boss: How tricky is this one? Not as bad as you think if you can cultivate the “Constructive Negotiation Approach.” The first step is to set a positive tone for the discussion, and be sure to honor your boss’s interests and concerns as much as possible. If you are lobbying for a new project you think will take the company to the next level, don’t forget to assess the level of buy-in as the discussion progresses. Keep your key arguments rolling, and don’t forget that you are going for a win/win decision. Think negotiation, rather than exclusively going for persuasion.
With those who report to you: As a leader, you have the responsibility to set the tone for the team. We call this “Group Facilitation” in KGI terms, and it is dependent on your ability to create an environment where people can do their best work. If your team is constantly wondering how you feel about them personally, or how you rate their performance, they can get significantly distracted from completing the task at hand — you know, the one you were so clear about! Couple that clarity with candor about who you are and where they stand, and the team will have a smoother path to excellence.
With yourself: Your toughest audience is you because you may not be paying attention. Effective teamwork is about cooperating with everyone else, without forgetting to stop and assess how the work and the team are affecting you personally. If inward examination reveals a need for change, then you will need to access “Initiative.” In KGI language, this means stepping into the spotlight to influence the situation. Perhaps the group is moving in a direction that clashes with your values, or you just need to be honest about all the noise coming from the next office. The spotlight is on you, and your ability to bring your best energy to the situation.
Eventually, you may find yourself in a position where coming out with the truth just seems too risky. But if you make it a policy to regularly be open with your team, you’ll improve your judgment and your ability to make the right choices. At that point, every day is Honesty Day! And your openness is just part of an honest day’s work.
April 30 is National Honesty Day. Do you plan to celebrate? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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