Creating a Culture of Candor

candor I recently learned an important new word: candor. "Candor" is honesty, openness, sincerity. HBR ran an interesting article about this term and what it means for business some time ago: "What's needed next: A Culture of Candor" (June 2009) by James O'Toole and Warren Bennis.

When talking about 'enterprise 2.0' and openness and transparency, words like 'trust' and 'authenticity' are often also discussed. Another important aspect is 'candor'. The authors stress its importance due to the context we live and work in:

Now the forces of globalization and technology have conspired to complicate the competitive arena, creating a need for leaders who can manage rapid innovation. Expectations about the corporation's role in social issues such as environmental degradation, domestic job creation, and even poverty in the developing world have risen sharply as well.

According to the authors this context asks for a specific type of leadership. The metric of corporate leadership will be: "the extent to which executives create organizations that are economically, ethically, and socially sustainable."

For leaders 'transparency' is one of the ways to go, although it seems to be contradictory to most leaders:

Organizational transparency makes sense rationally and ethically, and it makes businesses run more efficiently and effectively. But leaders resist it even so, because it goes against the grain of group behavior and, in some way, even against human nature.

Even though they know and are learning - as we all are! - that the "ability to keep secrets is vanishing - in large part because of the internet."

What leaders - and we all do - forget is this culture of transparency, of candor, does not come automatically. It's hard. It has lots to do with the way we see information and knowledge. And do we accept that knowledge is no longer power?

A culture of candor doesn't just develop on its own - the hoarding of information is far too persistent in organizations of all kinds. That said, leaders can take steps to create and nurture transparency. The bottom line with each of these recommendations it that leaders need to be role models: They must share more information, look for counterarguments, admit their own errors, and behave as they want others to behave.

So, what's the first step towards a culture of candor?

... create an unimpeded flow of information and an organizational climate in which no one fears the consequences of speaking up. ...extensive share of information is critical to both organizational effectiveness and ethics.

Because "...better information helps them make better decisions."

Now, let's get to work and create this culture!

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