Intent Blog

The Importance of Honesty in Teams and What it Looks Like

HonestyHonesty is complex but, like respect, is an immensely worthwhile value, particularly in teams. It involves having the courage to face one’s own discomfort and others’ reactions in telling things as they really are. Because of this honesty is quite a hard value to live by. You do not truly demonstrate your honesty when telling the truth on little things. You truly demonstrate your honesty when you remain truthful even when doing so might be risky to you.

Honesty is also about having the generosity to enable others by giving accurate information. Honesty also requires letting go of a sense of power over others and informing them of things that would be useful to them. Honesty requires a magnanimity of spirit where you strive to facilitate others by being truthful with them.

What does Honesty in Teams look like?

A key leadership challenge is to lay the foundations in which your team enjoys the rewards of honesty. But how would you know your team is honest? What are the typical behaviours that are particularly relevant with regards to honesty in the workplace? How do people behave when they are part of an honest team in which all the members are committed to honesty?

Team members tell it like it is.

Corporate politics can be the death of an effective team. But, it can only ever happen in an environment in which people are not being entirely frank with one another. In teams in which team members consistently tell things as they are and lay all the cards on the table corporate politics will never become a problem.

In a team in which members tells things as they really are you will see that they are typically not very diplomatic about what they are saying and do not need people to sugar coat the truth. We often say that one hundred little fights in the interest of full disclosure are actually good for a team. But one big fight that happens after things have been bubbling away under the surface for a long time will destroy a team.

Team members share personal information.

Honest teams will have team members that trust one another. Part of the reason for this trust is that team members will be open with one another about what they really think and feel and who they really are as people. Being forthcoming about personal details is part of being honest and is essential for building trusting relationships.

You can see how much of this happens in a team by finding out how much each team member is aware of what is currently happening in the lives of other team members. This is not about team members getting involved in each others’ personal lives, which I do not think is particularly healthy, it is rather about knowing where the other person is coming from. Knowing what they are grappling with and dealing with in their lives beyond the team.

Team members will share other important information.

Honesty is not just about telling it like it is, it is also about being absolutely forthcoming about relevant information. In honest teams, team members will be very deliberate about informing colleagues about things that might affect them. In such teams people do not often operate in the dark without being aware of all the things they should be aware of.

Team members give candid feedback to one another.

I am a huge fan of candid feedback. Without it you are really shooting in the dark. To be successful one really needs to seek constant feedback from others and the environment.

Team members and colleagues can be an excellent source of feedback provided they are courageous enough to be open and honest with you, not just about what you have done well, but also what you need to do better in the future. In honest teams colleagues will openly and timeously give one another feedback and facilitate each other to improve and grow.


Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.