Wednesday 2 July 2014

Co-creating a culture of candor

“Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process-reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul. ”
Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, in a wonderful book Creativity, Inc.

Candor is critical to the culture of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and a key reason for their long term success. And it can be at your place too.

All day, everyday, regardless of the situation, the 3 assassins of progress, fear of, anxiety about, and resistance to change are lurking in your heart and mind and in the hearts and minds of everyone you encounter.

Left to their own devices these three are killing possibility in your life, your relationships, and in your organisation.

There is a non-violent solution - candor.

Are you a connoisseur ("A person with expert knowledge or training, A person of informed and discriminating taste") of candor?

Please check out my 21 ways to be candid here to find out where you stand.  And please take the BS Detectors Pulse Check at the end to find out even more.

Number 8 in the Pulse Check is “I call it when I detect BS”

Do you?

One of the 6 BIG challenges facing leaders in the workplace is that most people don't yet excel at having conversations about performance when there is difficulty, conflict or disagreement. Being candid and naming BS is a key to cut through, resolution and significant performance improvement.

This is a skill issue yet more it is an issue of the will.

A key factor in this is elephants in the room.

Most of what could be better about an organisation is known yet unsaid (it is said underground and away from the organisation). For 23 years I have been walking into organisations as an adviser and I am told, usually within an hour, of what could be better and yet no one has raised issues with insiders for fear of reprisal or fear for their jobs and other nasty reasons. A common reason is a cultural issue of not talking about what can be perceived as unpleasant. Candor overcomes this.

Sometimes I name the elephants myself. I am not for everyone for I confront BS and help people to humanely remove warts, skeletons in closets, and elephants from boardrooms, offices, factories and shops.

Once or twice I have been thrown out for doing so! Usually I mentor people to name the elephants themselves. The outcome usually is relief and very quickly elephants are removed. Soon creativity and innovation happen. Often the reaction is why was this not spoken about before?

The known not being said and a failure to excel at having conversations about performance when there is difficulty, conflict or disagreement is costing organisations billions, probably trillions. The biggest cost though is to human life. 

Diplomacy is not the answer to the troubles in our world, not if this means smiles and handshakes, double-talk, and dancing around the truth.

Most of the great disasters of my life-time could have been avoided, and most of the trouble in organisations too. 

Are you the someone on the inside who speaks up and does so long before a consultant, auditor or diplomat arrives?

If you know it, speak it, otherwise you are guilty of wilful blindness and a tragedy could be about to happen.

To speak out effectively a lot of work needs to be done to ensure mutual respect, safety, and adopting the philosophy in ethics of enlightened self-interest, which Zig Ziglar famously captured when he said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

If you are afraid, for whatever reason, to be candid, please find an ally inside and/or seek outside help today.

A great place to begin is watch Margaret Heffernan's TED talk.

I am a big fan of Margaret for her excellent book 'Wilful Blindness' which sadly I see a lot of in my work. Wilful blindness is one of the great barriers to progress in the world today.

If you know it, speak it.

Saying what you know might just be the beginning of co-creating a culture of candor. You’re authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable will inspire others. Very soon spin, BS and wilful blindness will be assigned to history.

Courage is required

Being candid is not easy. Being on the receiving end is often not easy either. 

The death of my best friend in May 2011 hit me very hard. Until I was given some candid feedback (and feedforward) I hadn’t realised how down I had become and in fact had lost my mojo. I found it very difficult to receive candor and in fact fought it initially. I am forever grateful to the person who had the courage to be candid with me because eventually through it I was able to restore my well-being.

“Telling the truth and making someone cry is better than telling a lie and making someone smile.”
Paolo Coelho

Are you a connoisseur of candor? Your friends, family, and work colleagues will be grateful (sometimes eventually!) if you are.

Being a connoisseur of candor is a key component of 'Change Champions and the roles they play remarkably well' which is the working title of a book I'm currently writing that is the sequel to my Changing What's Normal book published 3 years ago last month. If you like to be interviewed for the book please

I am also exploring candor in online and in person presentations this year.

In a 5 part webinar series that I am presenting for the International Institute of Directors and Managers beginning on the 30th July 2014, being a connoisseur of candor is the topic for webinar 4 on September 10th. To be invited to participate in these webinars or to access the recordings please email

Game-changing Change Champions Day

This is my all new workshop and the only one open to the public. I am thrilled to be conducting it 3 times in the second half of this year in Melbourne 21st October 2014 with very special guest presenter Steve Simpson, Singapore 23rd October with very special guest presenter Paul Dunn, and London 29th October with very special guest presenter Nigel Risner.

Participation in this day also means 1 years membership to Maverick Thinkers Studio including a license to integrate my Enhancing Their Gifts System with the best of what you’ve got regarding leading for and recruiting, engaging, and retaining great people. All the details here.

“Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves.”
Ed Catmull

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

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