Leading Blog






05.10.06

The Managerial Moment of Truth

We often equate the telling of the truth with the statement made by Jack Nicholson's character in the film A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” It’s true. People don't often want to hear the truth. The problem is that as a general rule, the truth is not communicated in a way that is productive and helpful, kind and supportive. It usually comes across as an attack.

In The Managerial Moment of Truth, authors Bruce Bodaken and Robert Fritz claim that “truth is one of the most important competitive advantages there is in building a business.” It’s vital for creating an organization of learning individuals. Knowing what’s going on in reality gives organizations a better chance of success. “Without perceiving reality, it is next to impossible to succeed because invariably decisions are made in a vacuum.”

The phrase managerial moment of truth refers to that moment when the leader has the choice to ignore or call attention to something that has occurred. They observe, “Too often, managers think they have only one of two unpleasant choices: to have a contentious confrontation or to avoid addressing the situation. Whichever path they choose, real or lasting change rarely happens.”

They caution that telling the truth isn’t the same as “spouting our opinions or sharing our feelings. Groups that really tell each other the truth are the ones that ask each other questions, seriously seek to understand opinions that are different than their own.”

The authors developed a practical procedure that has been used successfully at Blue Shield of California where Bodaken is Chairman, President and CEO. It's a way of telling the truth and getting to the bottom of an issue without hurting people. The technique has four steps:

1. Acknowledge the Truth — Entails the awareness that there is a difference between what you expected and what was delivered and the decision to do something about it.
2. Analyze How it Got to be that Way
3. Create an Action Plan
4. Establish a Feedback System

The idea is to deal with these moments while they are small issues and before there is a need for a full-blown confrontation. Truth telling is a powerful agent of change. This system gives people the best chance to learn in a positive and safe environment. In the end facing reality is a lot easier than all the fancy footwork required in avoiding it.
Great leaders are also great mentors. Greatness is hard to achieve without a substantial amount of learning built into the fabric of the organization. Mentorship is the most direct path to learning because it is done within the context of real work set against the realities of the world.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:19 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Books , Leadership



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