Leading A Team With Honesty


In a recent NY Times interview, Fred Hassan, chairman of Bausch and Lomb, shared his philosophy about working with teams: “Roll up your sleeves, build credibility, and be very authentic with everybody so people start to believe you and trust you, and then get them to move together in the same direction.” I was impressed by this clear, succinct formula of how to powerfully connect with a team and methodically influence the journey.  Visualize a leader sitting in a pile of papers and charts sifting though the data with a team of people doing the same.  Hear the comments swirl: 

“What are we going to do with so much conflicting information?”

“What will be our next steps?”

“This is impossible- we will never resolve this successfully!” 

Looking around, you may be feeling similar, overwhelming thoughts, but should you be honest about how you see the project’s progress? Should you get involved in the execution or leave it to the team members? Should you try to “sugar-coat” what is happening to keep everyone calm and focused? These are all tough choices and decisions you may face daily. Here are some things you might want to think about:

If you are honest, the team will choose honesty:

When we model truth, we share how things are accurately progressing. We are not afraid to tell the facts because we know that working with full disclosure is how a team can address any roadblocks. Have you ever wished you were given more information instead of working with only part? If you had all the pieces, the solution might have looked very differently. Leading with honesty gives everyone a “leg up” on a great outcome.

If you are willing to get involved, the team will choose action steps:

When we are willing to get our hands dirty, we show the team we care. If everybody is being asked to come to work over the weekend, showing up is important for all. Each team member’s contribution is important and can realign a derailed project.

If you are clear in the direction, the team will choose clarity as they approach the project:

Making sure you use clear, direct and open communication models the way a team speaks and shares information with one another. I have seen situations where teams cannot understand why they are performing certain tasks because the leaders did not clearly explain how or why they were moving down a path. The result was blocked production and performance.

If you ask for input and ideas, the team will choose collaboration:

Partnering with the team in decision-making will send the message that each person is valuable and has important contributions to make. We know that when there is buy-in, there is mutual respect and support for the purpose of the project. It is always a win-win when everyone feels that their suggestions were included.

If you trust the people around you, the team will choose to trust you:

When you come through on your promises and do what you say you are going to do, the team will trust your actions and decisions. In turn, the team environment will be one of trust and respect. Trusting others by running with their ideas and giving them their due credit for jobs well done will boost an entire project.

When birds fly in a “V” formation, all in sync, they are choosing to trust each other to stay focused until they reach their final destination.

Choose to fly with the team united. Lead with honesty.


How do you help your team fly in the right direction? What has worked for you?






12 thoughts on “Leading A Team With Honesty

  1. I find it very important to share how I’m thinking… I let my team into my brain… here’s the factors I’m considering… here are the pressures… the political dynamics. Being brought closer to the decision making thought processes breeds trust.

  2. Hi Terri

    A great article about the essentials of team building! I agree that honesty must be in the mix, because without it, there is no trust. As you’ve said many times before, teamwork is built on trust…..and honesty with ourselves (as leaders) and with our team is the key ingredient to building that trust.

    Thanks, and I’m sharing with my community!


  3. Your clearly articulated points resonate well with my experience. An additional point in relation to your “V” formation example – as the lead bird gets tired it drops back down the ‘V” and is replaced by one of its colleagues. A similar approach used to be taken back in my military days when we used to change the person “on point” periodically when patrolling in what amounted to a V formation, So in addition to the trust element, I would add collaboration and team effectiveness!

  4. Clarity is such a vital way to lead a team, period. Clarity and honesty go hand-in-hand. In many ways, clarity is an extension of honesty.

    For teams to work in sync, clarity of purpose and goals deliver the way forward and eliminates the “stuff” that can clog up teams.

    These are great ways to lead teams with honesty, Terri. Great post! Thanks. Jon

  5. I really like what you do with your team, Karin because you are showing you are willing to let them in on your thinking and decision-making processes. I think the worst thing leaders can do are shut people out by withholding information and facts. This happens all the time and that is how rumors circulate. I agree that when a team is involved and has meaningful input, trust takes hold. Thanks for your wonderful additions! I so appreciate it!

  6. You are so right, LaRae that a team cannot function in any way without the foundation of trust. I guess I talk about this a lot. I also think that having leaders “jump in” occasionally and making sure they share all the facts and big picture concerns, can empower a team to share more and feel connected. Thanks for your great comments as always!

  7. You make a great point, Huw, that an effective leader should be developing future leaders to take the lead when it is necessary. Great leaders empower others to attain leadership skills and get them ready for “prime time”. There should never be a shortage of leaders to choose from on a high performing team. I also agree with you that collaboration is essential for team effectiveness. Thanks for you stopping by and offering your great comments! Terri

  8. I support you on clarity being essential, Jon, for teams to be high performing and cohesive. I think what sometimes happens is that leaders do not share all the information with a team because they think they are protecting the organization. Of course, that fails horribly, and rumors begin to circulate- which you call “stuff”. When both a leader and a team are on the same page about the goal and vision, great things can happen. Thanks so much for all your additions! Terri

  9. Honesty is absolutely essential in building rapport, trust, communication and in all aspects of daily life and as important in building teams and leading teams.

    Terri, I love the way you have presented such an important point.

    Good post.

  10. What a great post.

    Honesty is so important.

    We must remain open and clear and authentic in what we want, who we are and what we expect.

    Great teams have great leaders, be the leader within your team that leads with honesty.

    Fantastic POST! Very timely in the work that I am doing.

  11. I love what you say, Lolly, that “we must remain open and clear and authentic in what we want, who we are and what we expect”! Leaders who are willing to listen with open ears and minds and hearts will most definitely be influential in their team’s journey.Thanks for your additions- they are so appreciated! Terri

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