Stronger Through Adversity | Speak Truthfully

Thank you for joining me for this series titled Stronger Through Adversity. The book by the same name is based on conversations I’ve had with more than 140 global leaders as they navigate through COVID-19.

In Stronger Through Adversity, I suggest that “Before the pandemic, it was not unusual for leaders to emphasize the positives and downplay negative elements of a message. Out of fear of decreasing morale or enthusiasm, leaders would lightly acknowledge a company’s threats while rallying teams behind their organizations’ strengths and opportunities. During the pandemic, however, leaders acknowledged an increased willingness to share a more balanced picture. Dr. Moez Limayem, the Dean for the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business, noted, ‘In times of calm you are likely to see leaders emphasize optimistic forecasts and hit on trends that will inspire their teams. During the pandemic, it heartened me to see a greater willingness to share strengths and challenges. Leaders responded to the gravity of the situation with thoughtful consideration. They painted a more complete picture of current and future states, even if some of what they shared could be alarming.'”

This trend is in keeping with the importance of forthright communication during a crisis. For example, my friend Mark Miller, co-author of the award-winning book Legacy in the Making and Chief Strategy Officer at Team One, a digital, communications, and media agency, observed, “People will remember how we as leaders communicate during crisis times. Did we tell the truth? Were we forthcoming with the positives and negatives of situations? Did we provide them with the information they needed to make informed decisions? Did we act out of self-interest or come from a place of sincerity, honesty, and decency? I think they will also watch to see if some of that behavior stays around when we aren’t in a crisis. They will watch to see if leaders regress to a place that lacks information transparency.”

While most people think of information transparency as a reflection of a leader’s trustworthiness, Mark flips the concept to consider how honest communication sends the message, “My team needs this truth and can be trusted with it.” His position is reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln when honest Abe said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.”

So how would you rate your communication transparency during the pandemic? More importantly, how would your team members rate you on communication openness? Consistent with a famous line uttered by Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie, A Few Good Men, are you a leader who believes your people “can’t handle the truth?”

I would love to understand how you communicate the positives and negatives of the pandemic with your team and share how my clients are doing so effectively. Please reach out to me and we’ll find time for a conversation.

If you would like to learn more about Stronger Through Adversity and get your special signed 40% off pre-order offer, head to

Until next time, may you be Stronger Through Adversity by speaking honestly.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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