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Your Team Wants You To Lie To Them

October 28, 2015

They won’t tell you that. They’ll tell you that they want the truth. They want transparancy. They want to be kept “in the loop.” 

They are wrong. 

There are at least three areas where your team absolutely wants you to lie. In fact, if you don’t lie, it might just destroy your team. 

Lies Of Omission 

These are the easiest to justify and the easiest to tell. Just shut up and don’t say anything. Are layoffs a looming possibility? Tell your team and you can kiss their productivity (along with your top performers) goodbye. Is your biggest competitor hinting at making a hostile take over? Spill the beans and you’ll gut your team’s effectiveness but you’ll inspire 1,001 stories of what the (not yet confirmed) changes will bring. Personnel issues, of course should be kept to yourself. 

But, these aren’t real lies. These are just avoiding oversharing. Does your team want you to tell them actual lies?

Hard Stuff

I once ran a small software company. We were making a single product, a reservation system for professional rafting companies. Our shipping window was incredibly tight. We HAD to release at the beginning of September. That’s the slow season for rafters, and it’s when they are flush with cash from the recently completed summer. And if they are going to switch their reservation system, it has to happen before December. They lock things down after the start of the year to prepare for the start of the season.

We weren’t going to make it. I’d worked in software a long time. We had too many features, too few weeks left in the calendar and we were not going to be done on time. So, what did I do? I lied to the team. 

You guys are AWESOME. We are so going to knock this out of the park. I work with the greatest programmers in the industry! 

They didn’t want to hear the truth. They didn’t want to hear that I really thought we were goign to be late. They wanted me to lie to them. And a funny thing happened. They did deliver on time. There were a lot of compromises and I didn’t get everything I wanted, but we shipped a product we could all be proud of on September 1st. 

If I had shared my worries and fears with them, do you think they would have risen to the occasion? And that leads to the third lie.

I’ve Got This All Figured Out

I once heard a story about a young second lieutenant who was deployed to Vietnam. His first night out on patrol he got lost. 

Sergeant, I don’t know where we are. Do you?

Can I speak with your privately, sir?


If you ever again admit that you don’t know what you are doing in front of the men, I will frag you myself. . .sir.

The leader always has a plan. Sometimes, that plan is “under development,” or “not yet ready to be shared publically.” But, as the leader you need to know what you are doing, or you need to convince people that you do. 

Most team members don’t want to know the details of the plan. The programmers do not really care about the marketing plan. The Product Managers don’t care what language the code is being written in. The team members just want to know that someone knows what is going on. 

Because, here’s the problem; nature abhores a vaccuum, and so does business. If your team doesn’t think you have a plan, they will start to make up their own. They will second guess your decisions. They will worry for their jobs. 

But, what if you don’t have a plan? You fake it until you can make it. You lie. Your team will thank you for it. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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