March 18, 2021

Championing Truth from a Distance

A Monthly Blog Series on Remote Team-Building
by VP of  Operations, Elise Keitz

In a recent VitalSmarts webinar, Speak Up to Move Forward: 6 Crucial Conversations for Success in 2021, an impactful question was asked: In your organization what matters more: truth or power? Ultimately, organizations that prioritize truth are able to confront and tackle challenges more effectively than a team that elevates power as the predominant value.

During this time, how can you create more channels for truth and transparency, and champion the bravery to share when you see potential obstacles on the horizon? Here are some of our tried-and-true methods.

  • Early in the pandemic, we increased communication with families via our parent app, letters describing major changes, and phone calls to keep connected with those staying home. We kept them updated with the information we had. We approached these connections believing we were all in this pandemic together, and whatever truth we knew (even as the safety guidelines changed regularly) could help maintain trust and ease concerns when so much was up in the air.
  • On phone calls, remember to acknowledge that you can’t see faces and expressions, so you may not be aware when someone has a different perspective. Invite individuals to speak up at any time. On conference calls, call gently on people who’ve been silent and ask whether they have suggestions or concerns. Set the expectation with your direct reports that it’s always better for them to disagree respectfully than walk away with something unsaid.
  • Video calls offer a few more visual cues when someone has a truth they want to share, but leaders still need to facilitate those discussions well. You may observe and discuss truths about how engaging a subject matter is, or employ soft skills (listening, conflict resolution, empathy) that open the door to more forthright conversation.
  • When creating articles and interest stories or facilitating team book clubs, promote materials internally that put honesty first. Stories that showcase powerful leaders should speak to the values and practices that got them there. Consider carefully which values you’re elevating to your staff when you share content.
  • When we noticed colleagues around the country needed direction on how our digital resource library resources coalesced, we began “Flow Chart Mania,” which simply means that anything that can be put into a flow chart (with owners, arrows, resource names, and timing) will be. Using Zen Flow Chart has made providing visuals easier, reduced confusion and enhanced transparency.

We can learn to welcome truths—ours and others’—with grace even when it’s inconvenient, or when our silence could mean ending an uncomfortable exchange faster. Distance demands that we champion the truth more purposefully than in person as it can easily be deferred until later or pass by unnoticed. Distance also requires leaders be especially aware of biases and concerns that keep BIPOC team members from sharing equally, and remove any roadblocks to authentic contributions.

When truth comes before titles, we can find the root of an issue faster and dedicate more time to solutions that are aligned with the organization’s values. I hope these ideas spark and ignite positive interactions from afar.