Mark Meckler, Ph.D. - Crafting A Strategy
Human beings have a long history of only telling truths and partial truths that are convenient or self-serving. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson declared: “All men are created equal”. Did he truthfully mean all men, or just all white men? If he were being completely truthful in 1776, wouldn’t he have said something like “All men are created equal (except black men, Native Americans, women, and most other people different than me)”? Slavery, native’s rights, and women’s rights were difficult discussions back then – and civil rights, gender equity, and many other discussions remain difficult today. So why it is so hard to be truthful? And why is it a problem?
One of the most difficult things to do at work (or almost anywhere for that matter) is telling the truth. It seems so simple. Don’t we tell the truth almost all the time? No, we don’t. Here I make a short case to the members of our learning community -- to those who want to become better leaders, to those who want to make better decisions, and to instill better cultures in their craft businesses: Learn to tell the truth! I have an ironic saying that I’ve been living by for a number of years at my University and that I preach to my graduate leadership students: If you start telling the truth at your job, after a while, you will start to get away with it. Here are three simple CRAFTINGASTRATEGY.COM rules for a good leader and an impactful decision maker:
Rule #1: Don’t “b.s.” or lie to yourself
Rule #2: Strive to absolutely minimize how much you b.s. or lie to others
Rule #3: Be authentic
These rules are difficult to follow, especially at first. There are strong cultural norms and personal habits fighting against them. Not lying to yourself or to others means not subordinating honesty or truthfulness to any of your other “more important” values. Make honesty and truthfulness more important than almost anything else; more important than money, power, being right, being liked, pride, status and so forth. Authenticity means not picking and choosing or admitting only things that are politically correct, and hiding things that are not (at least not within your team and your organization). Lying and inauthenticity gets us frustratingly nowhere because the organizational solutions and processes that get built are then likewise inaccurate and incomplete. Habitual, even occasional lying results in organizational routines and solutions that are not in synch with the truth, and therefore do not work well.
In the craft brewing business, this lesson is incredibly important. The craft beer industry was built on honesty and the battle cry of “authenticity.” Honest ingredients, more flavor, doing things the right way, high standards, being different because of our values and always acting in accordance with our values; all of these core beliefs have united small and independent breweries in the pursuit of happiness and civic health. Why then, would a new entrant into craft beer slam the very products they create? Something is out of synch.
It is widely known that Elysian co-founder; Dick Cantwell opposed the sale to AB/In-Bev. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Cantwell was furious when, during the Super Bowl, his new bosses aired a commercial slamming pumpkin peach ale, despite Elysian brewing Gourdgia on my Mind only a few months prior. Do you think AB/In-Bev was completely truthful with Cantwell and his cofounders at the time of the purchase? Or, were they telling only some truths, the admirable ones, about improving distribution, and growing Elysian into a national brand, and how they, personally love craft beer and believe in the movement? Were there lies (holding back other known truths) about the real level of support and belief in the company for craft beer? This is what needs to be discovered. Perhaps the new craft division or department, and their negotiating team is just a small outlier in this giant company that truly does have different beliefs and values than the rest of AB/In-Bev, values and hopes that honestly are in line with Elysian's. Perhaps they did disclose this to Elysian's board, and perhaps they told the board it would be a battle to sway to rest of the corporate giant to their way of thinking, but that they believe it can and will be done. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
There is an old saying, I think it is originally Korean and it translates something like this: "there is what you say is true, then there is what is really true. And then, there is what is really really true."
Truthfulness as Your Culture’s Key Coordinating Mechanism
“Coordinating mechanism” is a fancy terminology for any means that we use to coordinate parts and pieces of our business. Culture is one of the primary coordinating mechanisms in any firm and the CAS members reading this blog can read how this works in our white paper: Using Culture as a Coordinating Mechanism .
For Crating A Strategy members, click here to read the full white paper about truth telling at the heart of any strong culture.