The Power of Courageous Candor

October 4, 2023

Titus Talent

Titus Talent

Building Trust, and Vulnerability for a Better Employee Experience.


The worst thing you can do to someone is to tell them what they want to hear. There’s a big difference between being winsome and engaging the Dale Carnegie philosophy of not correcting someone to maintain the relationship vs. agreeing with someone from a place of fear or holding back on sharing a difficult truth that could lead to exponential growth.  

Courageous candor is the antidote to groupthink and the remedy for the “I want to show you we’re on the same team by agreeing with everything you say instead of being confident of my professional insights and expertise to push back for the greater good of the search.” Courageous candor stops you from becoming an “accessory to a bad hire.”

The business landscape may be rapidly changing, but fostering open and honest communication in the workplace remains crucial for success; honesty is timeless. Courageous candor involves the willingness to speak candidly and constructively, even when addressing uncomfortable or sensitive topics; it’s saying the hard things because of what it will achieve in the long run. Courageous candor is a powerful tool for building trust, vulnerability, and ultimately creating a better employee experience. (Download our free Courageous Candor Guide to learn more.)

The Stats Speak Volumes: 

Before delving into the how-to of Courageous Candor, let’s take a moment to consider some compelling statistics that underscore its significance in the workplace: 

Trust and Productivity:  

According to a study by Great Place to Work, organizations with high levels of trust among employees are 2.5 times more likely to be productive. That could be the difference in landing a client that enables you to increase bonuses or make a significant capital investment in your future. 

Engagement and Honesty:  

The Edelman Trust Barometer found that 68% of employees believe that the quality of their work improves when their employer is honest about the challenges the organization faces. Very few people go in with the mindset of wanting to do a bad job; often you are dealing with ignorance, under-confidence, insecurity, or lack of engagement. Courageous candor can bring up the problems because of the assurance and belief in future potential. People know when they’ve done something wrong or made a mistake, it doesn’t serve to drive it home. Courageous candor can recognize the error or detour and can reset the trajectory.  

Retention Rates:  

A survey by TINYpulse found that 72% of employees who have regular one-on-one meetings with their managers feel engaged and valued, leading to higher retention rates. Frequent and consistent 1:1’s can track performance, ensure follow-up and resolution on issues, and increase trust and connection. 

Innovation and Feedback:  

The impact is validating, the value is empowering, and action breeds encouragement. A Gallup poll reported that employees who feel that their opinions matter are 4.6 times more likely to feel motivated to do their best work, which directly contributes to innovation.  

Tips to Integrate Courageous Candor in the Workplace

Now that we understand the importance of Courageous candor, let’s explore how it can be effectively integrated into the workplace.  

1. Create a Safe Space:

Encourage an environment where employees feel safe to express their opinions and concerns without fear of retaliation. This includes both positive and negative feedback. Leadership should set an example by actively seeking and welcoming input. One of the first questions a person asks in any given situation is, “Am I safe?” It is a question that sits beneath the surface of every interaction, circumstance, or experience. As a leader, your words carry the most weight in a room, even if you’re not aware of it. Your actions, attitude, and character directly affect the environment. 

2. Open and Transparent Communication: 

Provide employees with regular updates on company goals, challenges, and strategies. Transparency fosters trust and allows employees to better understand the bigger picture, which in turn makes them feel more invested in their work.  

3. Regular Feedback Loops: 

Establish a culture of continuous feedback. Encourage employees to share their thoughts on projects, processes, and performance regularly, rather than relying solely on annual reviews. At Titus, we hold Quarterly Conversations to achieve this. This real-time feedback helps in course correction and improvement. 

4. Constructive Criticism, Not Critique:

When delivering feedback, be constructive, not critical. Focus on the issue or behavior, not the

person. Use specific examples and suggest actionable solutions. This approach avoids defensiveness and fosters growth. Having a set of core values and a performance profile to provide a plumbline will aid you in remaining objective in these situations. Employees need to know they are being measured against something definable and achievable, and not just the opinions of their manager.

5. Encourage Vulnerability: 

Leaders should model vulnerability by admitting their own mistakes and learning from them. When employees see that it’s okay to make errors, they are more likely to take calculated risks, leading to innovation and growth. A great resource to encourage this is the book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown.  

6. Develop Active Listening Skills: 

Listening speaks volumes. Effective communication is a two-way street. Encourage active listening by teaching employees to truly hear and understand each other. This includes empathizing with colleagues’ perspectives and feelings.  

7. Celebrate Successes and Learn from Failures: 

Acknowledge and celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Similarly, when things don’t go as planned, encourage teams to conduct “post-mortems” to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement. Adopting a win-together, lose-together, rise-together approach can galvanize a team. When ownership becomes a core value you will see team members holding each other accountable, solving problems, and engaging in difficult conversations. Managers and leaders can then use the time they would have spent on solving problems to turn their attention toward people development and growth strategy.  

8. Invest in Training: 

Offer training programs on communication skills, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. These skills are crucial for fostering courageous candor and creating a positive workplace culture.  

The Impact of Courageous Candor on Employee Experience: 

Now, let’s explore how embracing courageous candor can significantly enhance the employee experience: 

Increased Trust: When employees see that their opinions are valued and that leadership is transparent, trust naturally grows. This trust forms the foundation of a positive work environment. 

Enhanced Collaboration: A culture of open communication encourages collaboration. Employees are more likely to work together to solve problems, share ideas, and innovate. 

Greater Accountability: When employees know their performance is regularly assessed, they become more accountable for their actions and work quality. 

Improved Engagement: Regular feedback and a safe space for open dialogue make employees feel more engaged and motivated, leading to increased job satisfaction. 

Higher Retention Rates: Employees who feel heard and valued are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. This, in turn, reduces turnover rates and the associated costs of recruitment and training. 

Boosted Productivity: Engaged and motivated employees tend to be more productive, leading to better business outcomes. 

In conclusion, courageous candor is not just a buzzword; it’s a transformative approach to communication in the workplace. Backed by compelling statistics, this practice can lead to increased trust, vulnerability, and a significantly improved employee experience. By creating a culture of open and honest dialogue, organizations can not only retain top talent but also drive innovation and success in today’s competitive business landscape. It’s time to embrace courageous candor and unlock its potential for your organization’s growth. 

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