Essentials of a Healthy Team, Part 2

Last week I looked at respect as the first of what I refer to as the three essentials of a healthy team. Today I want us to look at the second of those three essentials — honesty.

Let’s face it; honesty in the workplace is hard, even in the context of a Christian organization. People are not sure who to trust. They are not sure if they can speak their minds without the fear of their boss making them pay for their honesty.

Plus, their opinions and ideas may snake through the office in the form of gossip or a series of conversations with other team members. The result is usually underlying internal frustration in the organization.

A lot of leaders say they hold honesty as a high priority in the team, but often it is their response to the honesty that betrays their intolerance of it. They get upset, hold it against the person, because they felt challenged. Or they cut the discussion short because the honesty is making them uncomfortable.

The organizations that practice honesty have discovered, “the more transparent the work environment, the happier the employees are. The happier employees are, the more productive they are. Ultimately, honesty builds trust in the company and confidence in leadership. Voicing the truth enables all of us to identify the issue and work as a team to better it.” Klemchuk LLP

Let me offer some suggestions on how to create and maintain honesty in your team.

You must lead by example. There is no substitute for leading by example. What you want to see in your team, has to be modeled by you the leader. If you don’t practice what you preach, it will be much harder to influence them to practice the same thing.

Be honest and transparent. When you are wrong, admit it. Give credit to people for their work. Be honest about where you are, happy, sad, upset or just tired. Leaders try to hide their opinions and feelings from those they lead, but what they don’t realize is that most times their followers know the truth. What most of us fail to realize is that our tone of voice, facial expressions and body language betray us when we try to hide our feeling and thoughts.

Leave judgment at the door. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Give people the freedom to be honest with their opinions and feelings. Always take them at their word. Avoid reading meaning into people’s opinions and positions. Even when you do not agree with a person’s position they should feel they can share that with you without being judged or punished for disagreeing with you.

Communicate honestly. Most of us would prefer to give good news, but very few of us look forward to or even want to share bad news. This is especially true with leaders. Leaders struggle to give bad news to those they lead. And the struggle usually ends up with the leader having to deny reality.

Sometimes a leader needs to be honest with a team member and talk to them about their failure to adequately carry out their responsibilities, or some behavior that is affecting everyone else in a negative way. Either with a fear of hurting the person’s feeling or not being liked by the person, they fail to be honest with her/him.

This challenge is especially true for the leader who struggles with conflict management. The end result is that the team usually starts to lose confidence in their leadership.

Invite honesty. It will be difficult for honesty to operate as a principle within your team if they are not invited to be honest. One of the most effective ways to invite honesty is to intentionally have people join your team who don’t always say “yes” to your leadership.

This is not something leaders do naturally nor is it easy. Most leaders want people on their team who agree with them. But to have someone on the team who will keep them honest because they are just not another “yes” voice takes intentionality and courage.

Like respect, honesty takes intentionality and focus. These principles do not just emerge by merely talking about them. As the leader, you have to lead the way in creating a truly honest team.

Two questions to consider,

  1. How is your honesty with your team?
  2. How is your team’s honesty?

Next week we will look at the third and final principle of a healthy team.

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.