I heard someone say recently that they were already sick of the word authenticity. It's obviously being discussed a LOT in social media spheres. I've talked about it here as well. I think it's a great word, but when any word gets too much play, it can start to lose its meaning.

So here's an alternative: truth. I can hardly think of an organization that could not benefit from more truth. Not that all organizations are baskets of lies–truth is more complex than that. But in most organizations, people hold back, leaders don't reveal, learning takes a back seat, and important conversations remain unspoken for years. The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that we're not doing more about this. I think there are some simple steps we can take to bring more truth into our organizations, and I'm not sure what we're waiting for.

So I'm thinking about putting together some consulting and coaching programs to tackle the issue directly. With much of my consulting work in areas of conflict, trust, and difficult conversations, the topic isn't new to me. But I've never focused on it directly. So tell me what you think of this. I see four areas of focus when bringing in more truth:

  • Walk
  • Talk
  • Culture
  • Structure

Walk is about changing behavior at the ground level. More truth requires everyone in the organization to consciously choose new behavior in situations where truth used to take a back seat. You can't order people to do this. You have to get right down at their level and work with them to create new patterns of behavior.

Talk is focused more on people in positions of authority. While those people too also need to change their behavior, because of their position in the system they also need to pay attention to what they say. And I don't mean trying to market the new "truth" program to the masses. I mean speaking the truth in public ways.

Walk and talk both focus on individual thinking and behavior. Culture and structure are more about the system.

Culture is about elevating the importance and value of learning and feedback in the system. If your system rewards and supports extensive learning and the giving and receiving of feedback, then you'll have abundant truth. It's hard work to figure out how to facilitate cultural changes in support of learning and feedback, but it pays big dividends.

Structure is about evaluating and changing organizational structures and processes. You'd be surprised at how much existing structures or even simple processes can make speaking the truth terribly (and unnecessarily) difficult. But if you change individual behavior WITHOUT the accompanying structural change, the individual efforts will fizzle.

As I said, I've been doing work on issues like these in organizations for years, but putting it together into a package focusing on truth is new, so I consider these programs in the "beta" stage. If you're interested in being a test case for application of the programs, send me an email.

In the mean time, you can read my article on truth, or the following blog posts:

Jamie Notter