Natural Born Liars: 6 reasons why it’s time for leaders to have an honest conversation

Monday 25th July, 2016

We – you and me – we are natural born liars:

This cake is amazing gran, it’s my fav.
This restructure is not about moving anybody out.
I really wanted (another) blanket with sleeves.
It was a difficult decision, but we have given the role to X.

Sociologists, behaviourists and psychologists tell us that toddlers start lying at around three and that on any given day, we are lied to up to 200 hundred times.^

Some, or even many, of the lies are arguably necessary under the social contracts we operate in – granny deserves to believe she is a GREAT baker and really, is it worth hurting Uncle Bob’s feelings over a snuggie?

I am not blogging about the morality of truths Vs lies, I am definitely not qualified to do that. What I am doing however, is setting the context for this blog. Even if everyone naturally lies, isn’t it the responsibility of leaders to be, and do, better than their natural-born selves?placeholder
If you are a leader, it’s vital that you step up and start having some seriously honest conversations with your direct reports. Honest conversations about their performance and career prospects and in turn, ask your team for truthful feedback about your performance as a leader.


1. There is no way for your direct reports to do better unless they know where they are going wrong – they should have the opportunity to step up/step out/consider other options, on their terms, if that’s what’s required.

Respect their ability to hear the truth and to do better. Some great performers I know are doing amazing things because they have had that incredibly difficult, but honest conversation about their performance shortfall. Remember that people make things up in the absence of information, if they didn’t get that promotion due X, tell them, don’t let them think it’s because of Y.

2. Honest conversations can be confrontational and confrontations are scary. But courage is a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, so use yours frequently and make yourself a better leader.

3. Honesty builds trust and as we all know, trust is the magical ingredient in strong connections, great relationships, productivity increases and happier workplaces.

4. You can do better as a leader and the way to begin is knowing exactly what you are doing wrong; so ask, and be prepared, for candid feedback.

5. It’s one way to becoming a more authentic person.

6. Honest conversations save time. On average we already spend about 128 months of our lives working* - do you really want to waste any of it by being unproductive?

In my experience, two good ways to start an honest conversation are:

“This is not going to be an easy conversation for either of us and I am sure you feel uncomfortable/awkward being here, as do I. My expectations are…. Your performance has been…”


“It would be remiss of me not to have this conversation with you because…”

A candid conversation is not easy to have. The challenge, for you, me, all of us, is to choose to be better than our default, instinctive selves. Choose to have the conversations that takes all of us to a better place.


For a funny and informative general discussion on liars and lying, listen to Brian Cox and Robin Ince in The Infinite Monkey Cage.^^


Sacha Faulkner is a Client Services Director at Evolve Intelligence. To read another of Sacha’s blogs, please follow this link. Along with honest, Sacha is passionate about gender diversity.