Today my granddaughter graduated from the sixth grade.  She, along with her siblings and cousins, are delights for my wife and me.  As I thought of her accomplishment, I flashed back to a couple of years ago when she reminded me of a powerful lesson.

As she and I were walking along she blurts out “Pop, your hair is white!”  I replied, “No, Mackenzie, it is grey.”  To which she replied, “No, it’s white.”  I decided not to pursue the discussion further as my granddaughter is very much like her mother and wouldn’t easily let the issue drop.

A few months later while shopping for a sport coat, I went into a fitting room which had mirrors all around – front and back.  As I stared at the back of my head I thought, “Sure enough, Mackenzie is right.  My hair has gotten white.”

Well, the truth hurts, although along with a few other realities I’ve had to face as I’ve matured, this one wasn’t so bad.  At least I still had some hair.

But the point of this little vignette is sometimes we try to ignore the truth, or at least try to avoid it.  When I first got into recruiting, I tended to refrain from asking some of the questions that might lead to a negative response from the client or candidate.  If it had a high probability of being a “no” answer, I wanted to avoid it and hope that our next conversation might be more positive.

Fortunately, as my career developed and I started my own recruiting practice, I eventually figured out that it was much better to hear the truth, even if it were bad news as soon as possible.  There were two major reasons for this:

  1. If the candidate or client had some reservations about the opportunity or our ability to serve their needs, I could try to address those concerns only if I fully understood them. (As Stephen Covey taught:  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”)
  2. If there really was a “deal-breaker” issue that couldn’t be remedied, I would save a lot of time and energy by realizing it sooner, rather than later. Better to move onto people whom I could actually help.

This lesson all boils down to one of the axioms I now try to live by: have open and honest conversations with everyone.  Ask the tough questions and don’t be afraid of hearing the truth.  It is the path to building successful relationships and making long term fits with clients and candidates.

  1. Thanks to Mackensie for reminding me of this life lesson and congratulations on her graduation!