OK, so “strategic honesty” could easily sound like a phrase that means, a carefully and well constructed plan aimed at verbal deception. That is not what I mean. As a leader, sometimes you have to share difficult news and /or decisions that will affect people and cause emotional angst. When that’s the case, strategic honesty is always best. When you are strategically honesty you are both helping people understand the decision AND as many of the behind the scenes “why’s” as you can.
I understand that people can’t know everything about certain decisions you have to make. But, the more people walk away from the announcement confused and bewildered, the more repair time you will need on the other side. This is what was wrong with Sarah Palin’s announcement last week. As leaders, we can learn from it as a case study of sorts.
No one really “got” Palin’s announcement, because she meandered (using metaphors that left too much to the imagination, (e.g. “lame duck,” “hit the road,” “keeping my eye on the ball”). If you listen to her announcement, these metaphors don’t help create clarity, but make you think, “huh?”
Andrea Mitchell (NBC) interviewed Governor Ed Rendell today, and he explained in the first minute or so of the interview, what Palin should have said to be strategically honest. Take a listen…
When you have to announce tough decisions, 1) be clear, 2) use language that creates “ah I get it” moments, and 3) help people understand as many of the “behind the scenes why’s” as you can.