The Art (and Responsibility) of Truth-Telling

A ScrumMaster asked me the other day how they should handle the situation where half their team doesn’t seem to care about the work. They don’t seem to be motivated. They seem to be slacking…a lot. And where two individuals seem to be doing all the work. And they seem to be burning out.

A senior leader in an organization that I’m coaching asked me the following when he found out I would be meeting with his boss. He asked me to tell him that they have too much work to do. That they are being stretched to overcapacity and that it’s causing delivery, quality and morale problems. In fact, the house of cards is about to fall.

I was training a class at a client the other day and three individuals, not at the same time, asked me to escalate their impediments. One impediment was that their leaders were excessively interrupting the sprints. Creating chaos. Another was that the priorities changed constantly. And the final, small problem, was that the leadership team expected the team to exceed their capacity by 350%. They wanted me to address these (fix it) with their organizational leaders. And, believe it or not, they were all serious.

In fact, the above and similar scenarios happen to me all the time. Since I’m an outside consultant and an “agile expert”, folks not only ask me questions but…

  • They ask me to solve their organizational problems for them
  • They ask me to solve their agile challenges for them
  • They ask me to provide Critical Candor to others for them
  • They ask me to tell them specifically what to do

The REAL answer…

The answer to all (or most) of the above challenges does not reside in Bob Galen. There, I said it.

The real answer, almost universally, lies within those who are asking me to do it for them. They know the truth or they have the answers.

But the answers usually have an inconvenient truth. That is, you have to have the hard conversation. Or face a challenge. Or challenge the status quo. Or take a risk.

And we all seem to want someone else to do that for us…

Wrapping Up

I LOVE this quote from James E. Faust that aligns with this article:

Honesty is more than not lying.

It is truth-telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.

Far too often folks are looking for others to do the heavy-lifting for them. Sure, we’ll do the easier bits, like not lying. But if something challenging, hard, or scary comes along. Let’s get someone else to do the truth-telling for us.

It reminds me of that old Life cereal commercial about getting “Mikey” to try it?

Well, the harsh reality is that we all need to be honest every day. To be truth-tellers. To have any other focus is fraught with as much risk as telling the truth. If not more.

So, tomorrow and beyond, I encourage you to think of Faust’s quote every day. And to aspire to live (and act) by it.


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