A Culture of Candor is a Business Virtue

Candor in the workplace is people telling the truth about the work and each other. But that’s only part of it. When you have a culture of candor, people share their ideas and observations. They bring their thinking forward.

If you can create that kind of culture, many good things happen. You get more brains in the game, and so therefore, you are more likely to be innovative and more likely to have breakthrough ideas. A culture of candor leads to faster decisions and implementations. When people get all their stuff out on the table, things can be compared and choices made quickly.

A culture of candor improves individual performance, too. To get better, people need to know what to improve, and, most of the time, that happens when they hear about it from someone else. In a culture of candor evaluations are honest. They don’t need to be “brutally honest.” Gentle honesty will do fine.

People need to trust each other’s capability, they must believe that others can and will pull their own weight. And everyone must trust everyone else’s intentions. Everybody needs to think that everyone has the team’s best interests at heart. Without all that trust, people won’t be willing to go all in.

There’s one more thing. A culture of candor can be very uncomfortable. There are some people who like their feedback raw and take it as a gift, but most people bruise more easily. Without a sense of psychological safety, people are not going to take the risk.

Summing-up: A culture of candor is a business virtue. Teams with a culture of candor have every brain in the game and everyone contributing and improving. A culture of candor is achievable, but you will need to overcome all kinds of ghosts and a large chunk of human nature. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but achieving virtue never is.

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