It's the new year. If you aren't busy setting resolutions, you're certainly busy being inundated by them.
Who can blame the behavior? The idea of change feels great.
The practice of change, however, can be painful.
In my day-to-day I'm primarily tasked with motivating groups of people to achieve goals or solve problems. I used to often end up "spinning" the problem. I'd either tackle the really hard stuff on my own or I'd position the facts in an overly positive light.
That was my view of successful leadership: We bear the brunt and we protect our teams.
In my company's early days, I came upon Simon Sinek's TED Talk and it solidified in me a sense of purpose that was already simmering. I wanted us to own the Why--the underlying reason and purpose behind our company that could motivate everyone to do their best.
Oh, the unfathomable results we would achieve! A team, small by design, united in purpose and driven by encouraged curiosity--there was no problem we couldn't solve.
Why is a powerful concept, and I don't disagree with the common narrative that it can be transformative. People often make it seem easy, though. It wasn't until I was left to ponder my 2017 resolutions that I was forced to face a hard reality: Distilling down to a true and genuine why requires not only diligence but a truly frightening amount of humility.
The why you communicate to your team can't be manufactured. True sense of purpose is only formed when honesty and trust are present.
By placing a glossy sheen on the truth, I found that what I had intended to be protective was actually causing disengagement. People like to solve problems, but if you're presenting them with half the problem, you'll be lucky to get half the effort.
Even worse, your employees will come to expect only half-truths. You'll lose their trust.
I liken it to learning to drive, but only in a parking lot. A lot of what teaches you the most comes from the threat and fear of real danger--not a few shopping carts and a paper bag tumbleweed.
Nobody wants to feel like they're being sheltered. In withholding the whole truth, we as leaders rob our employees from their most powerful desire: the desire to help.
We're only just into the new year and I can tell you that exposing the true and full facts and reasoning has been more difficult that I could have ever imagined. It's like a blister: You don't want to expose it to anyone. It's uncomfortable and it often hurts when anything touches it.
To admit fault is, in many leader's minds, to admit failure. Every day I have to remind myself that communicating the un-spun truth will result in a team that feels truly engaged. It's how I regain their trust.
Luckily, I only have to look back on each prior day and the results we've already achieved through this practice to know that it's worth every minute of my discomfort.