Creating a Culture of Honesty and Trust | Ron Carucci


What if there was a way you could predict the conditions that foster dishonesty in the workplace?

What if there was a study that identified specific actions that made team members more trustworthy?

What if there was an area of leadership you could focus on to make your organization six times more likely to act ethically?

Our guest this week has these answers for you. After a 15-year longitudinal study and more than 3200 interviews with leaders, Ron Carucci knows what makes a business environment honest or not. The co-founder and managing partner of Navalent has a long track record of helping CEOs and executives tackle challenges of strategy and leadership and pursue transformational change for their organizations. The author of nine books has worked with startups to Fortune 10s to overhaul leadership and culture and he joins us to share the detailed conclusions of his studies, including:

  • The 4 conditions that determine the honesty, or dishonesty, of an organization

  • The ways in which performance reviews need to be rethought to dignity

  • How to identify and root out undue privileges that lead to injustices

  • Where to start when you begin to assess values and identity

  • And so much more

Ron’s statistical models are cumulative, meaning that addressing the key areas he has discovered will result in your organization being 16 times more likely to conduct themselves honestly. 16 times! You have to listen to the full interview now!

Mentioned in this episode:


Ron Carucci: Your brilliance and your strengths are not your greatest source of credibility. It’s your humanity that makes people want to connect to you and follow you. 

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Vibrant Leadership podcast with leadership speaker and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome to the Vibrant Leadership podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, the Vibrant Coach and I am here with none other than Ron Carucci. Ron is the co founder and managing partner at Navalent. He works with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change for their organizations, leaders and industries. He has a 30 year track record helping executives tackle challenges of strategy, organization and leadership. And he’s worked with everything from startups to fortune 10s. 

He works with nonprofits to heads of state. Ooh, I want to hear about that. Turnarounds to new markets and strategies and overhauling leadership and culture to redesigning for growth. He has helped organizations articulate strategies that lead to accelerated growth and design that can execute those strategies. He’s worked in more than 25 countries on four continents. That, okay, so we might have to have a little travel long session. I would like to know about that. And he is the author of nine books, including an Amazon number one Rising to Power, and just recently published, he’s gotten through it one more time, his new book, To Be Honest, Lead With the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose. 

He is a popular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, where Navalent’s work on leadership was named one of 2016’s management ideas that mattered most. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes and two time TEDx speaker. Oh my goodness. Ron do you sleep? And his words have been featured in Fortune, CEO magazine, Business Insider, MSNBC, Businessweek, Inc, Fast Company, Smart Business and for several places were thought leaders hang out. Alright, so y’all, are you impressed or what? I am so excited, Ron, that you’re here. I don’t think we can get it all done in the timeframe we have, you might have to come back for a second session. So welcome!

Ron: So nice to be here Nicole. Thanks for having me. It’s great to meet you.

Nicole: Yeah, you too, you too. So I am just curious. First question, always out of the gate is what is Ron’s definition of leadership? How do you go about defining it?

Ron: Gosh, you know, I think for me, when I look at leadership, it’s about influencing a greater good in someone’s life, or everyone’s a greater good in an organization. It’s shaping an environment where people can become their best selves.

Nicole: I love that. Absolutely. And I think you know, one of my things is as a coach, and you too, as a coach is like people have so much potential. We could do so much together, if we could just get ourselves wrapped around that idea that just in general, that there’s so much untapped potential. So that’s awesome. All right. Well, I am excited about your new book, and we were talking about it before we got started. I see it in the background there right behind you. So tell us a little bit about your new book. I think this is a fantastic concept, this idea, which shouldn’t be revolutionary to people. But to be honest, leading with power, truth, justice, and purpose. Tell us a little bit about this.

Ron: So you know, Nicole, I think we’re all tired of some of the stories we’re hearing. We’re tired of hearing about Theranos, and, you know, Wells Fargo in the stories that just makes our make our soul sag. And I wanted to know why that keeps happening. Why do we keep running into the worst versions of ourselves and having people you know, take our companies down and one with the stock? In these really bizarre, odd self serving choices? And I wanted to know, could we predict it? Could we could we figure out under what conditions people would tell the truth, behave fairly and dignified and serve a greater good? And on what conditions would they lie, cheat and serve their own interests first? 

So we did a 15 year longitudinal study of more than 15 wasn’t 3200 interviews with leaders. And I did some really forensic, really cool AI kind of analytical work on that data to see if we could find patterns that would indicate to us what factors would influence which. And they and that’s exactly what we found, we found that in fact, you actually can predict, we found four conditions that would tell you whether or not people would tell the truth, behave fairly and serve a greater good. Our definition of honesty is more than just not lying. Our definition of honesty is truth, justice and purpose. Meaning you have to say the right thing, do the right thing and say and do the right thing for the right reason. It’s no longer enough not to lie anymore. 

People, if you want to be labeled as honest and trustworthy. That’s the yardstick people are going to hold up to you. Because our experience of honesty has gone into such a freefall, that our expectations have just gone that much higher. So we found that there are you know, hiding in plain sight right in front of us in our organizations are factors that will determine whether or not people will behave in ways you would want or behave in ways that puts you in headlines you don’t want to be in.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Well, I recently just did a program for students at Davidson University here in North Carolina. And I started out my whole program talking about a Karmann Ghia. Do you know what a Karmann Ghia is Ron? 

Ron: No.

Nicole: It is a little Volkswagen they don’t make anymore but it was like the first car I ever drove. And I had this like love affair with Volkswagens. And the idea of this little Karmann Ghia and I was gonna get one someday and refurbish it and everything. And then Volkswagen had that big problem where they put the emissions thing in the cars and messed with it, nobody got fired, and everything. So I’m right there with you. And my point with these young students was, you know, you could have a brand that you love so much that has this memory attached to it. And then people just steal it from you, you know, and so that’s what happened to me.

Ron: Yeah, it’s, we don’t realize that our reputations are very tarnishable, both as individuals and corporations. You know, each of us can spend decades, attracting and building and sustaining the trust of others, and in seconds, just drain it.

Nicole: Yeah, so we recently bought a new car, I thought I was gonna get a Volkswagen, I ended up getting a different German brand. So I was just like, you know, it just changed everything for me. So I think what you’re talking about here is revolutionary and awesome. So what are those factors that you found? You said, I found factors. What are the factors?

Ron: So the first one was, we call it clarity and identity. Be who you say you are. All of our company’s tout promises. We have values and missions and vision statements and purpose statements. And it turns out that if the words of those statements that you make, which are implied promises, and the actions of your organization actually match, meaning people experience you in the way you describe yourself, you are three times more likely to have people tell the truth and behave fairly and serve a greater good. But if you your actions and words don’t match. In other words, if you say this, these are our values, and this is our purpose, and that’s for the consumption from the wall only. 

But we do we do something else in practice, what you’ve now done is institutionalized duplicity. You’ve now told the world hey, around here, we say one thing, but we do another. And when that happens, now, you’re three times more likely that people be dishonest. The second factor was justice and accountability. Meaning that our experiences of talking about our contributions are laced with dignity. You never hear I’m sure you’ve never had a client come to you Nicole and say, I’m so excited. Today’s my performance review. But mostly when those days come, people dread them. And what’s unfortunate is that the process that should be the most honoring and dignifying in our companies, talking about our contributions have become the most demeaning and demoralizing. 

And people dread them. Mostly because they were built for a time when companies wanted to make sure that sameness, equal fairness when we treat people the same. Well, when when our worker remits were things like how many claims you processed or how many t shirts you printed, or, you know, some repeatable work? That was fine. But today, people’s remits are as unique as they are, right. Today your remit is your idea, your analysis, your creativity, your your hard thinking, your your dissenting voice. So when you separate my contribution from me as the contributor to be objective, that’s actually undignified. Because and unfair, because when you’re trying to neutralize all of us into the same when we’re all so different, now you may be invisible. And so we’ve got to reintroduce accountability systems that include dignity and fairness. 

Meaning to level, the playing field as level for everybody to be successful. No matter who you are, or what you look like. When those accountability systems are seen as fair, you are four times more likely to have you ever be honest. But when I feel the system is rigged, when I feel like, I don’t have the same chance of success as everybody else, when I feel like my boss talks to them, I work in a very undignifying and demeaning way or uncaring way. Now, you’re four times more likely to have me be dishonest because now I have to lie about my mistakes, and embellish my accomplishments to stand out. The third factor was transparency and governance. Meaning when I walk into a meeting, and I believe that what’s happening around the table is an honest exchange of ideas, that the data being presented is not been spun or scrubbed in any way. That it’s a fair representation of a truth. 

And that my voice is welcome, that I’m free to push back or challenge the prevailing conversation. That I’m free to offering alternative points of view that might be inconsistent with what’s in the room. Now I’m three and a half times more likely to have people be honest, because now I can trust what’s happening in the room. And the decisions that we’re going to make I can walk out extra comfortably. But if I walk into that room, and I think it’s nothing but nothing but orchestrated theater, meaning this is performance art right. The data has been scrubbed, you’re have already made the decision. I’m just saddled with likely I’m being part of it. The last thing I think you want to hear is my alternative idea. 

Now, your three and a half times more likely to have people be dishonest. Because now for me to get to the information, I have to go underground. And the last one was cross functional partnerships by relationship with people across the border, you know. Sales to marketing, supply chain to operations, R&D, to marketing, R&D to manufacturing. Those places where we typically have border wars typically have, you know, unresolved conflicts, differences in measurement, differences in points of view, where basically you have your they. You know, here they come, what did they want. When those conflicts at those seams of the organization are left unresolved. When there are intractable, when they cause friction, when they cause performance to fall short. 

If they stay that way and that just becomes normalized, you are six times more likely to have people be dishonest, because now it’s no longer about the truth. It’s about my truth versus your truth. And when you have dueling truths, and you fragment it, you fragment the organization, right? You create, you allow silos and tribalism to become the norm. So so you’re theys become rivals of your we’s. But if those things are stitched well, if in fact, there is cohesion of those seams, if those people come together and realize that one plus one equals three, we serve a greater good together, that we each create part of the value that we couldn’t do on our own. There’s a way to resolve the healthy tensions and conflicts that naturally exist in those seams. 

Now, you’re six times more likely to have people be honest, because now we’re part of a bigger story. We all now share the same outcome and goal, we may see the world differently, we may have different disciplines, we may not do the same kind of work, but we have enough respect for each other that we don’t it’s not it’s not we, they it’s just we. The interesting thing about the the statistical models they call it is that they’re cumulative. Right. So if you’re good at all four of those things, you are raising your odds by about a factor of 16. You’re 16 times more likely to have people in your company behave honestly. But if you suck at all four of them, now, you’re 16 times more likely to have to be evoked by that story. 

To be a Wells Fargo story. Because all that risk is just growing in the feet in the petri dishes in your organization right there in front of you. And these are things we take, you know, how many of us think oh, yeah, sure, the values, we roll our eyes, we see that. Or of course, we do okay to a meeting who was telling the truth. Or, of course, no one likes their performance review. It’s terrible. Or, of course, there’s a we and they. They’re a pain in the neck. We just take these conditions for granted as if they’re just normal parts of organizational life, and don’t really understand that they’re inherently very risky conditions that don’t have to be that way.

Nicole: Yeah. And so I’ve got this thing screaming in my head from my mentor is like about being honest. And the four factors that you’ve given us, it’s like, you gotta have give it attention and be intentional about clarity and your implied promises about justice and accountability, about transparency and governance, and about your cross functional partnerships. This is all going to take a great deal of attention and intention, right. So well, let’s go back to the first one, this idea of clarity. So if a leader who’s listening right now wants to start, is that where they start? They start with clarity?

Ron: You could, start with any one of the four that you think may have, where there may be some problems lurking underneath them. But but with that one, it’s a real simple thing you can do. Enter your next meeting, you know, take your mission statement, or your purpose statement or your values, whatever, whatever your company touts as its own promise, put it on the table and ask your team, h, how are we doing against this? If people follow us around with a video camera all day long, and just watched how we work? Could they use that video as a training program for these values? Would people see us embodying this? Would people, would you see me embody it? And if not tell me? 

Or are there some ways we can do better? Ask for examples. Tell me someplace where you have felt like we have shined in living up to one of these values. Where are some place where you’re not so proud? Where are some places where we could do better? Just bring the conversation into the room and actually talk about the words, and it can be a sobering conversation. But you at least start moving toward really making sure that the actions and words of your team and have you as a leader start to match.

Nicole: Yeah. So is this what you call closing the say-do gap? 

Ron: Yes.

Nicole: When we’re gonna have this conversation. Okay. So I love that language. When I was looking at your book, it said closing the say-do gap. Like I’m going to be like using that in the future, just so you know, but I think it’s really important. I worked with a client recently. And we were talking about the core values and he’s like they’re hanging on the wall. And I said, no, they’re not. He goes yes, they are. They’re in the lobby. They’re hanging on the wall. And I’m like, no, they’re not. And so anyways, he came down from his office went out there, and they were not hanging on the wall. They had painted and not rehung the words, which is just like a maintenance thing, right. A facilities thing or something, right. Like somebody put the Plexiglas on the side of a wall in a storeroom, and they just didn’t get it put back out. There wasn’t intentional. But it’s a great story.

Ron: To use your words, it was a lack of intentional.

Nicole: Right. And so, you know, it’s kind of like, he was like, they’re down. I’m like, well, here’s what we need to do. First of all, let’s re examine them before we hang them back up. Right, you know, and let’s, let’s close the say-do gap. Thank you. I’m putting that in my pocket. Okay.

Ron: Isn’t it very interesting anthropological data, that nobody in the company realized that they weren’t hung again. That you as the outsider would be the one to point out that they were missing? Because did he even know how long they’d been down? Like, how long have they been, I mean, it could have been a month? Right?

Nicole: It was, it was a lengthy period of time. I think it was more like three months.

Ron: The company where I mean, what that tells him is that those values are not sacrosanct. Because in a company where the values are sacrosanct, the janitor would have pointed out, hey, where are the values? Somebody would have said something immediately, if they had been if those principles were treasured parts of their culture. But if it was just for external consumption, it’s a plaque.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Yeah. And so you also have kind of, in this part part one of your book, honesty in identity, you’re talking about honesty in the identity of the company. You know, do we walk the walk and talk the talk and all that. But I’m curious, what what does a leader need to do personally, because I think a lot of leaders are disconnected. Like, it’s like, you’ve got to be the one living this first before you can expect all of your employees.

Ron: What most leaders don’t understand is that your values have been decoded. If you ask your team, what is important to you, they’ll tell you. It may not be the values you believe you espouse, or that you believe you embody. But you are telling people every day who you are. There are stories of your leadership being told around the dinner tables of your people every night. If you don’t know what stories are telling, that’s a problem. But you may say, for example, I recently had to give feedback to a client to tell him that your team is struggling to trust you. He got very defensive and said I’ve never, I always include them. I champion them, I stick up for their causes. 

How could they not trust me? And I said, well, apparently, I hit on it in the feedback. Apparently, in meetings, when they go on too long. You don’t like what they’re saying, you become a little bit sarcastic, a little snide. And if they go on too long, you cut them off. He said, well, everybody has a bad day. I said, well apparent you have many of them. And what you’re telling people by those two behaviors is that you’re not safe. Their voices are not safe among you, because they’re always dodging your snide remark, or your off the cuff quip. Or being or so few of them know what they’re going to say that they’re babbling, and they fear being cut off by you. 

So they can’t trust that you are somebody that can bring their full selves to. That’s not trustworthy. He had never connected the dots between those behaviors and making himself untrustworthy. Worst of all, he was somebody that spent most of his time touting the importance of teamwork, and talking about the team and we’re all one and how much he valued the whole community. And, and yet his very behaviors for the line that he said he was important to him. Didn’t even see the contradiction.

Nicole: Yeah. And so that’s what my daddy would call a hypocrite. Right? I mean, we use this old fashioned language, you know, like, it’s like, you know, you’re saying one thing.

Ron: It’s institutionalized hypocrisy. You said, it’s okay that I say one thing and do another. You may say, you value compassion. But if somebody runs into your office and says, hey, somebody just backed into your car, you know, and the first thing you ask is, how bad is the damage instead of is anybody hurt? It’s real clear that compassion is not a value.

Nicole: Right. Yeah. So you know, I think this whole thing boils down to, like, you know, like, the quality of your character. You know, and I work with a tool. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it before, but it’s called the true tilt profile. And it’s, it’s about 48 character traits or strengths of leaders. And so the ones that you’re mentioning, you know, is honesty, integrity, compassion, all those are on the list. And so that’s just popping up in my mind that, you know, leaders really need to take an inventory of those traits to see kind of like, where they have a propensity to, as the title of that assessment says tilt, right, which way they tend to tilt right. 

So I think that’s really great. Okay. All right. So I love this part of the book where you say get busy, be who you say you are. So how does a leader like get a to do list on this? So like, you know, you bring it into them. The the conference room, you start talking about it, but like, what does the leader do personally? I want to really lean on that just for another minute. 

Ron: So my first question would be, have you articulated your values? Have you actually written down and articulated what people can expect from you? What what you want them to hold you to account for? And and if you have, do you know why you value them? And do those values serve a purpose? So you can say that I value efficiency, I value quality, I value intellectual rigor, I value compassion and empathy. I mean, whatever it is, on what basis did you form those values? Versus, you know, these values are the values I should have. 

What are the values you actually espouse? If your children followed you around with a video camera all day long? What values would they conclude your your example is training them to do? And really closely examine, you know, and if you’re not, if you’re not sure, go ask people. Find 20 people or so in your life who will be honest with you and ask them, what do you think I stand for?

Nicole: I love that stamp, that I love that question.

Ron: If you were to observe me in life, as you have. Just my actions and behaviors in my decision making in my choices, how I spend my time, what would you say was most important to me? I mean, many men say, my family’s the most important thing. My family is top of my priority list. You know, I value my commitment to them. But then I look at your calendar. And I actually see how you spending your time, at night and on the weekends. And I’m not seeing a connection between that value and how you spend your time. 

Nicole: That’s beautiful.

Ron: You may in your heart and mind, feel strongly about your family. That’s great. You probably love them dearly. And you probably hope they love you in return. But to say you value them would require action and intention and attention. And I see neither. 

Nicole: That’s exactly right. Yeah. So I’m having a little flash over to Marshall Goldsmith, he, I’m sure you’re familiar with Marshall Goldsmith, but he tells us a story about how he realized that he was not doing that. He wasn’t, he was saying that he loved his family, but it wasn’t showing up on his calendar. So he went to his daughter, and he said, Honey, I’m going to spend more time with you. How many hours a week would you like to spend with daddy because I think he’s just a very practical, pragmatic guy. 

And she said, I don’t know, maybe five hours a week. And so they began to spend five hours a week together doing all sorts of things she wanted to do. And he had it on his calendar so that it could be seen. And then he said about after a month, she came to him and said, Daddy, I think we should we should change it to two hours a week. But I just love that story. Because you know, he did find the right amount, right? That pleased his daughter. And then also it was right for him. But I think what you’re saying is absolutely huge. And I love your puppy in the background. By the way, what is his or her name back there?

Ron: His name is Hamilton.

Nicole: Oh, did you name it like after the Broadway show? 

Ron: I did. Yeah. 

Nicole: No way. Oh, my gosh, we should hang out and do sing alongs Ron, I love Hamilton. I love it. My daughter and I turn on we tell Alexa to play the whole soundtrack then we dance around the kitchen for hours. It’s awesome stuff. All right. But I digress. Alright, so now I want to talk about part two of the book, which is justice in accountability. And so you touched on it a little bit. And you said that performance reviews are dreaded, which I totally think is right. And then you said we got to have systems for accountability. Can you kind of talk about what you mean there other than like the performance review? What are their systems of accountability are there?

Ron: Our routine conversations with our progress reports. How we give them assignments, how we check in with them. The process in which we were well, not so much rewarded for our work, but how our work is acknowledged. You know, one of the questions I love to ask audiences, when I speak Nicole is how many of you have ever received a compliment from your boss that you found insulting? And more than half the hands in the room go up. When I asked them what what did you find offensive about the compliment? It’s the same response. It wasn’t sincere. They didn’t mean it. It sounded obligatory. They, it sounded like they were checking the box. They didn’t actually know what I had done. 

Nicole: There’s the listing part. 

Ron: So you know, one of the things we have to insert dignity into the conversation, you have to honor the work of people. But one of the simplest ways I tell them is all the time if you want to truly express your gratitude and acknowledgement for somebody’s work, ask for the story. When they come to you and they hand in a project or they’ve met a deadline, or they’re telling you they’ve given you the whatever it was you asked for. Step back and say, you know, I have sure I have no idea what it took to actually do that. I’m sure it was harder than it looked. Tell me the story. What was it like? 

And make them tell you the story of their accomplishment. Watch how they light up, watch where they struggled, watch when they had a break through. Watch where they learn something. First of all, we’ll give you a goldmine of data about how to motivate them. And secondly, by listening to the story, you’re telling them, it’s in your hard work is important enough for me to learn about it. You know, rather than saying, hey, thanks, great job, you know, take the time to hear the story of the great job. Secondly, be honest about yourself and ask yourself, where is there underprivileged around here? You know, is the playing field really equal? If you were a tech company, I’ll bet you your engineers are privileged. If you’re in a branded company, I’ll make sure marketers are privileged. If you’re in a high growth company, I’m sure your sales people are privileged, you know. 

And it’s not that you have to treat all work equally, because all work is not equal. But if those privileges that those people enjoy, have an invoice for somebody else that has to pay something for those privileges, and they feel disadvantaged by those privileges, that’s a problem. That’s an unlevel playing field, that’s a lack of justice. Where is there a lack of procedural fairness? You know, how do you allocate your resources? How do you do your budget work? Whose voices get heard in your meetings? And whose don’t? If you want to find injustice, and missing dignity in your organization, you can look for them? And but most people already assume you see it and don’t care. So.

Nicole: Most people assume that you see it and you don’t care. You’re not doing anything about it.

Ron: Because how could you not see it? Right? It’s so obvious. And maybe you don’t see it, which means you should be even all the more on the work out to find it. And you should make sure people know, you want to hear about it when they see it. I tell my clients frequently, you know, it’s a very simple litmus test. But if you don’t have somebody coming into your office once or twice a week, regularly, saying something that makes you uncomfortable to hear, you can be very confident your leadership sucks.

Nicole: Can you say that again, because I think it’s genius, Everybody listen up.

Ron: If you don’t have somebody coming into your office once or twice a week, saying something to you, that makes you uncomfortable to hear, your leadership sucks. And if you’ve assumed that it’s because there wasn’t anything difficult to say, now, you’re stupid. Because there are problems that your position, there are challenges, there are difficult things happening. And they’re telling somebody, they’re certainly telling each other. They’re telling their families at dinner. But if they’re not telling you, you need to be curious about why? Because you’re probably one of the people with a disproportionate level of influence to be able to actually fix the problem. And so if they’re not telling you, there’s a reason, but it’s not random. There’s a reason we’re not telling you. You should wonder why.

Nicole: Yeah, well, okay, so I got another thing screaming in my head, Ron. So I talk a lot to my clients. Like, as a framework to get started, I say, you know, let’s talk about what makes a leader tick. You know, you’ve, you’ve got these different things working for you, you’ve got your brain, you know, you’ve got your social energy, you’ve got you know, all these different things, your emotional intelligence, etc. But there’s one thing working against you. And, and we have this conversation about ego. And I think that the leader who gets that person that walks in their office and makes them uncomfortable, you know, that uncomfortable is the, the ego is triggered. 

And now we’re in a fear state, you know, and, and when you’re in fear, we all know from our brain science, that back here, your amygdala gets hijacked, and you can’t get to your prefrontal cortex, to think about whatever it is this person is telling you and be a problem solver or get a strategy in place. So when you think about, you know, being honest, and that kind of thing, I think this whole subject matter triggers the ego. What do you suggest for leaders to learn to take feedback? Because I will tell you, they don’t teach you this in business school, you can have an MBA and one of the classes is not how to receive feedback, it should be but it’s not.

Ron: I think you need to ask yourself about, you know, what data are you are you relying on? If not data, that’s feedback. How are you drawing conclusions? You’re using some data set? Is it your assumption base, is it your observations? What’s the source of input for your decisions about how you choose behaviors or how you lead or how you influence? And if it’s not a regular source of feedback, it’s like flying a plane without radar. Here’s a simple but crass metaphor that I use a lot for leaders. You know, if you imagine you had a very nice dinner party with your significant other and you decide to leave a little bit early, and you get in the car, your significant other turns to you and he or she says, honey, you have a big thing hanging off the end of your nose. It’s been there all night, get it off. Your question would be…

Nicole: Why don’t you tell me? 

Ron: You tell me now? Every every leader has things hanging off your behavior, you can’t see. Everybody else’s seeing them. You should want to get in on the conversation. Because if you because if you don’t know how can you fix it right? Now, people may come to you with clumsy, awkward, not particularly well articulated ways of telling you that, but that’s okay. You don’t have to you know, it doesn’t have to be a beautiful love letter to tell you how great you are. And oh, by the way, you suck at this. Make sure people know you value their dissenting ideas. Make sure people know you value your crazy input. I have one client, she’s great. She simply says, after she’s expresses an idea or offers a point, she’ll say, she’ll tell them. Okay, so how am I smoking crack?

Nicole: Am I high or not?

Ron: And she and people have come to believe she actually really does want the pushback, the dissent. You know, conflict is the raw material of innovation. You need differences. You need sparks, to get your best ideas, your highest quality decisions and your greatest level of ownership. If that if people are just not in their head telling you what you want to hear, in your meetings or in your conversations, you should be concerned. It means you haven’t created the psychological safety needed for people to believe that their voice matters, and that it matters to you. 

Maybe, and maybe, and if you’ve decided, I don’t care what they think, that’s okay. You’re allowed to do that. You have. there’s a cost for that you have to be when there’s a crisis, you’ll pay the cost. Because they all sit around and look at you and go want to do we want to do here, because you will have trained them to think that you’re the answer ATM, and you have all the answers. And so they will look to you and you’re you’re going home, frustrated and venting to your spouse, going they don’t take any ownership, they don’t get involved. Well, that’s how you’ve trained them.

Nicole: That’s right. So you get that culture of disengagement that like almost every executive is worried about and doing surveys, and then getting the surveys back. And you got to believe what the data says. I love what you said, what data are you relying on? If not feedback? Oh, my gosh, y’all write that down. Ask you that yourself that question daily. Well, you know, Ron, I had, I have this wonderful mentor. And she told me that I was not good at taking feedback. I’ve been with her a long time. And she said, you want to provide an excuse, Nicole. 

You want to give your rational your rational ideas around whatever it is you’re doing. And she said, here, I’m going to teach you how to receive feedback. And I said, okay. And she said, you just say thank you. You don’t have to decide if you agree with it, or you don’t agree with it right away, you just have to say thank you. And I know that the Center for Creative Leadership has touted the idea that feedback is a gift for years and years and years. And it really, truly is. And if you’ll just say thank you, then you can go think about it for a minute and then come back and address the person that gave it to you in a way where you are speaking from here, your prefrontal cortex and not back here, your amygdala. So I think that’s really good. 

Ron: You, we could sort of add to that thank you. I know that was probably not easy for you to do. So I really appreciate the courage it took for you to come and I appreciate that. And if it was something that you did, that was troubling, you should add oh, and I’m so sorry. That was not my intent. Don’t tell him what your intent was. That’s not important. But you say. I’m so sorry. That’s not that my intention. Thanks for bringing my attention to it. The art of the honest apology can buy you so much credibility, if you mean it. 

Nicole: The art of the honest apology. Alright. Can you talk about that for a minute, the art of the honest apology? I love it.

Ron: Listen, we all mess up, right. And before our egos get in the way of us actually taking responsibility for we mess up. Certainly, you shouldn’t have to wait till somebody tells you, but when you realize, I messed up. I said something I shouldn’t have said or I hurt somebody’s feelings. You know, if you made a comment in a meeting, and you watched people shut down, or you realize then just totally say, hey, you know what I that wasn’t my best self. And I’m sorry. And ask forgiveness. Your humility and your humanity are two of your greatest leadership assets. 

People know you’re not perfect. What they don’t know is whether or not you know it. And if you can let them know before about your imperfections before they find them, let them know that you want to take responsibility for them before they have to tell you, you buy so much credibility. Your brilliance and your strengths are not your greatest source of credibility. It’s your humanity that makes people want to connect to you and follow you.

Nicole: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Okay, so that’s a beautiful segue for part three of your book, which is about transparency. So I think you’re talking about two things there. Maybe I can be transparent about my weaknesses, my challenges, my quirks. And then so transparency and the governance of the organization. Like one thing that I’m a huge fan of, is like, you know, open open books. Like you want me to contribute to the profit, then you got to show me how we’re doing, otherwise it looks like we’re making a boatload of cash around here. Right.

Ron: A lot of it seems to be going in your pocket.

Nicole: Yeah. There’s all those cruises I go on as the leader, right? Or he’s not here. He must be, you know, at the spa. I don’t know. So will you talk a little bit about transparency in governance. 

Ron: I mentioned earlier, Nicole, we all walk into meetings and wonder, you know, what is this just who’s performing here? Right. You know, think about the next time if you’re a leader and it’s your QPR and people are getting in front of the room, talking about what happened in the last quarter and forecasting what’s gonna happen in the next quarter. And think about the person who’s up there. And while you’re in your head thinking, this is such a load of crap. You know that we’ve heard this same forecast for four quarters now. Yeah, he, he hasn’t met it yet. And there’s always this very interesting dance and storytelling about why the last quarter went off the rails. 

Everybody in the room is thinking that, but they’re nodding their head, that’s interesting. But no one is saying anything. You should wonder about that. Why is it okay, for the people in the front of the room sharing the story of their work to spin it? Everybody’s looking at the same before? Everybody knows what happened? It’s here, what why aren’t you talking about it? And if that level of transparency is not valued in your, in your team, or your department, that energy is going somewhere, right? 

So the amount of work it takes to do the spin, to do the couching to do the justification to offer the defense to you know, sort of do that the quick sleight of hand had to take away from the real truth is all capacity that can be going toward actually improving performance. So you know, you have a finite amount of capacity. If you’re okay, with it being sort of have been deployed toward that kind of nonsense, then, you know, then don’t wonder why people aren’t getting their work done, or why it is when there’s a pinch, people aren’t going to dig deep and do more.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, at the end of the day, I think people want to be part of something that does have integrity, that is full of honesty. Because like, we know that environment makes us better, because we’re all prone to falling off the off the rails, as you said earlier, you know. And so it’s like, gosh, I work for such a good company. And if it’s not like, we don’t understand that, that makes me better. When I when I come here, every day, I get better. This is a great place to work, not because they have ping pong tables or whatever. But because I’m part of a group of great, huge amount of hard working integrity character people, and I’m part of it. Wow, hot dang, that’s great for me. So I think that’s I think that’s fantastic. All right, well, group, but part four of your book is, you know, again, talking about the cross functional partnerships, and I love the language that you use. 

You’re quite a wordsmith. Obviously, he’s written nine books. Hello, everybody. So you said the lean truths, because that that is just so and I also like it, because it’s got a whole Hamilton thing to it. Don’t miss that everybody dueling truth. So we’ve got these two truths. Accounting thinks it’s going this way, marketing thinks it’s going that way. Sales thinks it’s going that way. Talk about dueling truths. And how can we get better at getting these silos broken down and stitching organizational seams, everybody write that down. Stitching organizational seams, that is a beautiful phrase.

Ron: You know, Nicole, I think I mean, the last couple of years, I think showed us and I think some of the social media has amplified this that I think we have confused speaking your truth, with speaking the truth. We have taught people that if you just don the posture of a big, loud, middle finger, and rant and rave, you get to be right. And we’ve taken that polarization into our workplaces with us. And we don’t have productive ways of actually, you know, finding a shared truth. We have echo chambers, we like our tribes, we like people who think like us. And we don’t like people who don’t, whether whether we actually know what they do or not, we’ve assumed they don’t. 

And we’ve, we’ve othered them. We’ve made them other, and now they’re the enemy. I think we live in our echo chambers that just reinforce what we believe. And if you don’t learn to go and value and listen to the points of view that don’t match yours, you’re never going to learn, right? We’re so afraid that if we listen to a point of view different than ours, it means we’re condoning it, or that we agree with it, or we’re compromising our values. That’s all crap. Right? If you’re listening to people who I think like you, you’ll never grow as a leader, you’ll never be able to be at the enterprise level because all the enterprise is a bunch of is a sea of different differing points of view. That’s what makes it an enterprise. 

And so, you know, think about who your they is. Who is the cross functional partner in another group that when they come, you know, you hear their name, you see them in their caller ID, you see an email from them, or they’re coming for help, and you go ugh here they come. Ask yourself, what what conclusions have you drawn about them? What assumptions or labels have you given them that you’ve never tested? But you just assume are true? Or what pieces of data have you taken from choices they’ve made or your attempts they’ve, you know, irritated you with? And and concocted them into? Like, how would you How have you vilified them? What if 70% of what you concluded isn’t true. 

Have the courage to pick up the phone, walk down the hall, go to that person and say look, I know we haven’t been the best of colleagues and value is being eroded from our company because, you know, people look at us as the Hatfields and McCoys. How can I be better? What can I do to be better colleague to you? What is it I don’t know about your world, but I should know? How long I’ve been a problem for you? I we do this, we do seam stitching interventions all the time, where we bring those organizations together. And we make them talk about the value they co create, and the conflicts they haven’t resolved, and how they want to work together. It’s called a seam stitching, a seam startup. And what we inevitably find Nicole is they have these conversations, they learn so much about each other that they, they just never assumed to be true. 

And you hear things like, oh my God, that’s why I’m, that’s why you hate me. Or I had no idea I was such a pain in the ass to you that way. And you just realize all of your assumptions were concocted so poorly. And so you know. And by the way, you’re somebody they too. Whose they are you? Who rolls their eyes when you walk down the hall? Who butt are you a pain to? Because you’re making somebody’s life miserable, just as they’re making yours miserable. If you don’t do the work to cross the bridge and stitch the seam, you’re leaving all kinds of value money on the table, and you’re making the place miserable.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. So I got a couple of things from that. First of all, this thing of vilifying people, I see it all the time I am with you, 100%. And other like kind of sentiment out there is like Ron and Nicole can’t change. You know, like, that’s the way they are.

Ron: They’ve always been that way, they’re always gonna be that way.

Nicole: And, and I’m like, and on our watch, as coaches, we have to believe people can change or we’re out of business, right? And so I tell people that all the time. I said, no, you’ve you’ve got to have this word, everybody, this word is all the way throughout this book. I have to have hope. I have to have hope in people. I mean, like, all I got is people in this whole world is people to help me. And so I think that that is so huge, like this stuff almost makes me cry Ron because it’s like, no, we can help Nicole get better. We can help Ron get better. But somebody has to care enough to help her or help him right? Or just tolerate, or we’re just going to tolerate this nonsense, and we will never get out of the mess we’re in.

Ron: And it’s not fair to them. It’s not fair. It’s cruel to let somebody struggle and not be helpful. It’s just unkind.

Nicole: Awesome stuff. Okay. So the last thing I got out of that was I had a flashback. This is two days in a row had this come up. So I’m gonna go study this, again, I’m sure you’ve studied this in your past, but the you know, the ladder of inference. That is Chris Argyris’ work, where he talks about how you’re in an environment, and you give something meaning, right. Or you, you poke pick things out, you like to pick out of the conversation, then you give it meaning, and then you make assumptions. And then you jump to conclusions. And I think I’m missing a couple ladder steps here. 

But then eventually, you take action based on those little things you picked out and gave meaning and whatever. And that’s when you’re like, oh, when you said earlier, that’s why you think I’m a pain in the ass. It’s because somebody just ran up the ladder on you. So I love that. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna do a little blog or something on the ladder of inference. I think people need to see that laid out. Is that is that a good model? You think?

Ron: Oh it’s a great model. And I think if you if you just said oh, I mean, where that work has come through Peter Senge’s work, and all work on cognitive biases, right? You know, I think all of those are just our own biases screaming to make make sense of the world. I mean, our brains are our brains is a lot of neuroscience in the book and the research because I wanted to understand how hardwired for honesty, are we? The good news is that we are. Our brains are actually naturally hardwired for honesty. But unfortunately, our brains don’t come don’t come with the same button our cell phones do that says we restore factory settings, you know. 

So when we get into environments that don’t value integrity, if we don’t get out, we succumb you know. And so, the and we did that, you know, there’s a slippery slope for a reason. If we don’t back away from this slope we slip. And, you know, we unfortunately as Dan Ariely, he says, you know, in your neighborhood, we don’t have slippery ascents, we just have slippery slopes. So, you know, we have got to be the ones that decide, you know, am I being the best version of myself? Am I being who I want to be? Am I showing up in an environment that I’m proud to be part of? And am I doing that with people that I value and that I respect, and who respect me. And if you’re not, don’t just settle for that. Right? 

Don’t just settle for, you’d want somebody to tell you if you were not being all of who you’re supposed to be. So, you know, why would you not conclude that somebody else’s can be better if they’re, if they’re if they’re performing in ways that are less than ideal, or they’re struggling, you have no idea why. But to just write them off, as though, you know, they’re helpless. That’s just your own excuse. Yet what the honor, the honor statement is, I don’t want to do the work to bring it to attention. Because you know what, here’s the real truth. If they change, request change on your part, right? It’s change back syndrome, right? If people who you love to complain about and bitch about and whose behavior troubles you gives you something to sort of crusade about, if suddenly they become more trustworthy, you have to trust them. 

If they become more empowering, you have to become more empowered. If they become more inclusive, you have to show up and be included. Well, we don’t bargain for that part. I like being on the sidelines throwing darts, that’s more fun, it’s more safe. So you have to ask yourself, if the real reason you’re not raising it, and you’re telling us that well, they can’t change, you’re lying to yourself. That’s just not true. The real truth is, I just don’t care to, or I don’t want to. You’re, you’re allowed not to want to. That’s okay. You have to be willing to bear the consequences of what comes with that, including their behavior you don’t like.

Nicole: That’s right. And you know, another thing people say to me, Ron, so they’ll make like, a little sassy comment, like, well, their mama must not raised him right or something. And to which I always reply, well, that might actually be true. 

Ron: Yep. 

Nicole: And so if you if you have not had somebody speak into your life, like my mentor that I mentioned earlier, that said, You’re not very good at taking feedback. What?! But I mean, I think my father, when I think about my life, he wasn’t very good at taking feedback. And so I learned how to not take feedback well, you know what I mean? So it’s like, you think about it. And it’s like, when somebody can tell you these things, and you can change. It is such a testimony to everybody else too when like somebody in the company does a turn around. I mean, it’s just I mean, then they think, oh, well, maybe I can change too. 

But leaders have to understand that you do have to kind of raise people up. Now I don’t mean help with their children. I mean, like raise them to higher ground, bring the whole team to higher ground. That’s what the whole leadership thing is about. You do have to raise people. Yeah. All right. Well, if you were to give, well, first of all, everybody go get this book, To Be Honest. Okay. You have to go get the book. It’s on. Where’s the book at? It’s on Amazon. It’s on your website? It’s everywhere. Right?

Ron: And Barnes and Noble. Yeah, it’s everywhere. Target. Walmart.

Nicole: You can’t not find it. Is that that’s what we’re saying. If you Google To Be Honest by Ron Carucci.

Ron: And if you want to know more about the book, you can go to And you can we have a whole TV series. So if you if you want to meet all the incredible heroes that I met during the book, because of the book is a book about of heroes, it’s not about the villains anymore. I wanted to know, who can we emulate? Who do we want to be like? So this is a book of heroes. We did a TV series called moments of truth. 

And we actually when I did the interviews for the book, we videoed them. And we turned it into a whole TV series. And so you can find those episodes on, you can find more information about the there’s a webinar on how you can take about the book’s research. And we have a free assessment called how honest is my team? So you can download that and you can find out am I getting the whole truth from my team?

Nicole: Fantastic. Oh, my God. All right. So hello, everybody out there on the Vibrant Leadership podcast, you just won the lottery, you got a whole thing to do now. All right. That’s fantastic. Okay, so here’s the last question, leave us with this Ron. If there’s one special listener out there, and you’re like, here’s my one final piece of advice. Do this next first, what would you say?

Ron: Think about the last two weeks of your life. And think about the moments that you were dishonest. You know, I mean, University of Massachusetts, says we all lie on average twice a day. But broaden the definition of honesty and think about when you are not your best self. You know, you were you weren’t fair to somebody, you weren’t kind to somebody, you you fudge the truth, you embellished an accomplishment. You bragged, you were selfish, you were short with your kids, you were mean to your spouse. There’s actually sit down and really recall, and just six or eight day period, and write down all the moments and I guarantee you you’ll find a pattern. 

Because the moments that bring us to our dishonesty are not random. We all have moments and places in our life that we use those behaviors to protect ourselves. To hide a wound, to repeat a narrative in our head that’s telling us a story about how to interpret the world. Your your moments of dishonesty are not random. If you want to become more honest, you have to go back to the origins of your dishonesty. And so if you really want to raise your own game and and really raise the profile of your trustworthiness, what people actually see you as somebody they want to follow and trust. You have to go find the places in your life that are paternalistically calling you to do behavior that’s that’s less than you. That’s beneath what you say you value and be honest about what those are and where they came from.

Nicole: I love that piece of advice. Thank you so much for being on the Vibrant Leadership podcast. I’ve had an absolute ball, I have pages of notes, and I’m going to go to and watch the video series, find out more about the book, buy the book, and then take the assessment and get this whole thing in a strategy. Get it on the calendar. It won’t do anything if you don’t get it on calendar. Work with your team. Ron, we appreciate you so much. And of course you can reach out to Ron. How’s the best way to get a hold of you.

Ron: Our firm’s website is n a v a l e n t .com. We got a treasure trove of stuff there for you. Got free ebooks for you. We have a bunch of videos you can watch there. Some great white papers and articles. So come hang out with us there and stay in touch. Follow me on LinkedIn too.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. I’ve already LinkedIn with you but the rest of you get busy. Thank you so much.

Ron: My pleasure, Nicole.

Voiceover: Ready to up your leadership game? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her unique SHINE method to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Email and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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