In my line of work I get lied to frequently. I do not get lied to all the time, but it does occur on a fairly regular basis.

The lies can come from leaders or their teams and can be either conscious or unconscious. The conscious lies typically come out of fear. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of having to change. Fear of consequences.

In that circumstance, my job is to root out those fears and help people face unpleasantness. One business owner I worked with was quietly going out of business and the rest of the team had no idea. The owner said that they needed team building. I told them that spending valuable time on team building would put them out of business. The real challenge was execution.

Teams will often go on about how perfect they are, how harmonious, how professional. When I dig in with these perfect teams I might find dysfunctional cliques, lack of follow-through and general habits of learned helplessness.

The above type of lies can be dealt with head on. Look at the data. Set plans for completion. Define roles and responsibilities. If action does not take place then tough decisions need to be taken by the leader.

The unconscious lies are a bit harder. They are technically not lies since they are unconscious, but they are certainly “untruths.” Common statements include: “I have no idea what to do.” (you know you should let them go); “I had no idea it was that bad.” (you did not take the discipline to measure); and “I had no idea that was going on.” (you suspected but never investigated).

The second category of lie also requires directness, but the communication needs to be tied to the awareness of the leader’s contribution to the lie. The question is some form of: what does the current state of affairs tell you about your leadership?

Being aware of lies (conscious and unconscious) takes discernment. Taking steps to address takes courage. Time after time I can tell you through my observation that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Picture: Flickr Creative Commons. Oh what a tangled web we weave by Jenny Downing