Why honesty at work is more valuable than a brave face

When you're at the top of a business, you might be tempted to say to your employees that everything is fine because you have all the answers.

Dennis Carey: I think the most important part of any CEO running a major global corporation is to be on the ground in those geographies—to the extent that he or she is able to do so—and also to build a team, a trusted advisory team which is having ongoing communications. 

A good case in point would be Alan Mulally at Ford when he took over in a very, very tumultuous time in the auto industry. He established his own War Room. Everyone on deck around the globe on screens around the world to weigh in on challenges, opportunities, and he had a grading system: green light, yellow light, red light. Not too difficult to understand in concept. 

But he would go around and ask each one of the leaders around the world whether things were going really well, if there was a yellow light if there was some caution and a red light indicating that there were problems that needed to be addressed. 

If someone, especially during the calamitous period of time that Ford was going through, if someone gave a green light, which we’re all prone to try to do especially near performance appraisal time, he would typically ding them by saying, “Wait a minute. We all need help. Nothing is ever perfect, so tell us how we can help you in a collaborative way around the world to support you.”

And by the fifth or sixth meeting, virtually everyone was giving yellow and red lights. And what that did was it forced employees, the senior executives from every corner of the globe to not be afraid to ask for help and to acknowledge that they needed help. 

And the fear factor of the next performance evaluation went away because they recognized that if they were asking for help they would get rewarded. 

And in fact over a period of time, this cross-cultural collaboration began to develop and grow. 

And people, whether it be from China or Singapore or Malaysia, London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Mexico City or New York City, they began to speak effectively with the same tone. 

Now clearly, language is interpreted differently around the world so there typically would be at least a second or third translation of what was actually implied or meant in those discussions, but over time that team developed a sense, a bonded collaborative spirit and they were rewarded economically for working together.

When you're at the top of a business, you might be tempted to say to your employees that everything is fine because you're in charge and have all the solutions to all the problems. Dennis Carey, author and Vice Chairman of the incredibly influential corporate recruiting agency Korn/Ferry International, thinks that is the wrong approach. He tells us here about how Ford's CEO Alan Mulally turned Ford's financial futures around just by finding a novel way to get his employees to be more honest about how they were doing. Ego can often stand in the way of asking for help, and if your ego is hurting your business, you'd better put that ego aside and be truthful. Dennis Carey's new book is a Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First.

Is life after 75 worth living? This UPenn scholar doubts it.

What makes a life worth living as you grow older?

Culture & Religion
  • Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel revisits his essay on wanting to die at 75 years old.
  • The doctor believes that an old life filled with disability and lessened activity isn't worth living.
  • Activists believe his argument stinks of ageism, while advances in biohacking could render his point moot.
Keep reading Show less

Brazil's Amazon fires: How they started — and how you can help.

The Amazon Rainforest is often called "The Planet's Lungs."

NASA
Politics & Current Affairs
  • For weeks, fires have been burning in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, likely started by farmers and ranchers.
  • Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has blamed NGOs for starting the flames, offering no evidence to support the claim.
  • There are small steps you can take to help curb deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which produces about 20 percent of the world's oxygen.
Keep reading Show less

Amazon is selling thousands of banned, unsafe, and mislabelled products, report shows

The world's largest retailer has evolved "like a flea market," according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • The report found more than 4,000 listings for products deemed to be unsafe, banned or mislabelled.
  • These products included mislabelled pain relievers, dangerous children's toys, and helmets that had failed federal safety tests.
  • There are some steps you can take to avoid buying unsafe or counterfeit products from Amazon.
Keep reading Show less