“You can’t handle the truth!”
Remember that memorable courtroom exchange in the movie “A Few Good Men“? Tom Cruise, playing a military lawyer, is questioning a long-time Army Colonel (brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson) about whether he ordered a “Code Red” (an illegal hazing) on one of his charges.
And it boils down to “the truth”. Cruise’s character demands it, since that is the basis of our legal system (and, he hopes, the way to clear his client of wrongdoing).
But the Colonel sees it differently. He’s doing a job where “the truth” doesn’t need to be known, because of the greater good of keeping the peace and providing a “blanket of freedom”.
We all know how this comes out – the Colonel eventually confesses to ordering the Code Red (after all, this is Hollywood) – but in real life, especially in the business world, demanding and getting the truth isn’t so cut and dry.
It seems so elemental – a team can only be great in an atmosphere of truth and transparency.
And yes, the leader of that team HAS to be the one demanding it. It HAS to be non-negotiable. The one thing that doesn’t have any wiggle room.
That’s a good first step for a leader – that act of saying “above all else, I want the truth“.
But there’s a lot more to it than that –
What is the leader doing to get it once the line in the sand is drawn? And…..
If you do always get the truth, CAN you handle it?
More often than not, this process starts by looking in a mirror. Yep, let’s start with you.
Have YOU been honest and forthright with your team?
Are you encouraging bad news as well as the good?
When you get the bad news, do you react in a way that discourages more?
Have you ever “looked the other way” for the “greater good” when someone on your team lies (or hides the truth)?
Do you put in the time talking and listening to your teammates about their issues concerning truth-telling (that is, they may have developed a problem before they arrived)?
These are just a few of the key questions that need to be asked.
Because it has to start with you.
And end with you.
Truth goes out, truth comes back. No detours.
It’s the quickest road to efficiency ever devised. I’ve spent way too much time in my career trying to “ferret out” truths. Think about that in your own experience.
In fact, the reason why that scene from “A Few Good Men” is so burned in my cranium is that in my career I’ve had to utter “I want the truth!” a few times more than I wanted to.
And then wouldn’t you know it, some wisecracker would always smile and utter Nicholson’s line. And THEN tell me the truth. (There’s a little bit of Hollywood in all of us…..)
Demand the truth, start with yourself, and create the right atmosphere to get it.