The behavior “talk straight” speaks to our willingness and ability to be honest and tell the truth in ways that enhances positive communication, improves and strengthens relationships and extends and builds trust. This behavior is the fruit of integrity and demonstrates one of our core values at Solutions for Change: integrity of purpose. We value honest, open and courageous speech which is given in a bold yet kind and humble way. Servant Leaders strive for balance because we value healthy relationships that are built upon truth and trust.
This kind of positive communication or straight talk begins with the willingness to listen. As Servant Leaders we should encourage others to share their viewpoints and ideas; and create an environment where honest and straightforward talk is expected so that our co-workers know that their opinions and input is valued and listened to. We need to encourage one another to say what needs to be said because withholding information or avoiding necessary conversations can put a cloud of dishonesty over the entire organization. Of course, how we say it and our intent will also determine the effectiveness of the communication.
Straight talk will be most effective when we are connecting with each other and developing a rapport with those we work with. Servant Leaders take an interest in their co-workers and want to be aware of what they are working on and how they can support, equip and inspire when possible. Often we experience people who tend to “talk straight” only when there is a problem or someone needs correction, which can leave the wrong impression and have a harmful impact on the relationship. We should strive to give positive and honest feedback on a regular basis so as to build trust and establish a reputation for integrity of speech in all situations. “Integrity is telling myself the truth; and honesty is telling the truth to other people.” -Spencer Johnson
Fear is one of the top reasons that people lie or distort the truth. All of us who have kids know the experience of hearing them tell us something we know is not true because they fear the consequences of their behavior. How many times have you said, “Please just tell me the truth?” The cover up is worse than the action. Young kids have usually not yet learned how to spin or manipulate the situation to their advantage. As we get older this same fear causes many of us to look for creative ways to tell the “truth” so as to avoid admitting mistakes in order to make ourselves look better. As Servant Leaders we need to learn to talk straight to ourselves and to be honest about our mistakes and shortcomings; and be willing to address the fears that can lead to a counterfeit behavior.
Servant Leadership lays the foundation for both the permission and the accountability for the behavior of “talk straight.” Servant Leaders are those who set the bar high in terms of honesty and straight talk and exemplify those standards in their own behavior and actions. We must be careful to not send mixed messages, knowingly or unknowingly, by allowing for double-standards to exist and clearly clarify our expectations as an organization. As Servant Leaders we look for ways to build trust by talking straight and encouraging each other to do the same. “Honesty in action” aptly defines the behavior of “straight talk, and it demonstrates one of our organization’s core values: integrity of purpose.