My complete armor was on and I was ready for what I assumed would be the coming onslaught. Peter and Pamela (not their real names), two precious Christians, had just taken a seat in our living room. Peter had been the CEO of one of my companies, and I had just fired him two days before. I had worked with him to alter and improve his performance, but nothing seemed to work. His wife, Pamela, had called me, asking for an audience, and I agreed as long as we met at my home and include my wife, Linda.
Pamela began the meeting by saying, “You’ve been the only one to have any positive impact on Peter. He has listened to you, and I have seen some changes in him for the first time. You were my last best hope! What am I going to do now?”
With that, Pamela burst into tears, joined by Linda and me. In that one convulsive outburst, all my armor was ripped off. But Peter sat passively, blankly staring at us, as if we had lost our minds.
What was his problem? He could not face “bad news.” When Peter’s subordinates came to him with anything negative he ran them off. Plus, he had techniques to frighten and discourage them from ever coming back with bad news again: getting red-in-the-face angry, denying the news and accusing the messenger of bad faith, ignoring the situation (as he was doing in my living room), forgetting the facts and acting like they were never spoken, along with some other more subtle but effective ploys.
These are fatal flaws for a CEO, and Peter could never become a successful one until he learned to face bad news while encouraging those who worked for him to be forthcoming with it.
Peter’s father had been an alcoholic, and Peter had learned from childhood to deny the truth. That early scar doomed his fate as a CEO.
The Bible tells us, “The truth will set you free.” It certainly refers to the gospel’s power to free us, but the principle of “truth telling” is at the root of what it means to be a Christian, and at the heart of every exemplary Christian business and businessperson. Without recognizing it, a business or organization will be severely harmed.
We need not fear truth. We should encourage it in whatever profession we are in, and embrace it, whether good or bad. When eternity is sealed and certain, earthly bad news loses its power.
May this tale of Peter encourage us all to examine our own level of truth telling and ask ourselves, “How good am I at encouraging people to speak truthfully to me?”