“Achieving Full Capacity” – Assests Required to Create an Honest Communication Success Culture

Organizations these days face limited resources and numerous external challenges, yet the demand to achieve full capacity remains constant. More than twenty years in business with employees tells me the key to achieving full capacity is to build and continuously nurture an Honest Communication Success Culture (HCSC) because such a culture makes all the difference to innovation, efficiency, and teamwork as well as the bottom line.

An Honest Communication Success Culture (HCSC) is the key differentiator between organizations that are successful and dominant in the market and those that are not. It is also the primary differentiator between organizations with employees who are fully engaged and those who are not. Considering that a recent Gallup poll revealed that 70 percent of employees are not engaged or inspired in the workplace, I would assert that it is time to consider the role of culture in facilitating engagement in order to win in the marketplace.

An Honest Communication Success Culture has two primary characteristics—proactive sharing and taking responsibility—as illustrated in the grid below. These concepts seem simple, but their application may be a bit more complex than meets the eye. Let’s take a quick look at what proactive sharing and taking responsibility really are.

Proactive Sharing

In an organization with a strong HCSC, people openly and honestly share their thoughts and opinions because they understand the biggest problem in an organization isn’t what people do say, it’s what they don’t say. Proactive sharing is sharing without being asked, and it involves three levels of communication that we call the three I’s:

Level 1: Information. This is the first and most basic level of sharing. Information is critical for people to make informed decisions, and one
of the biggest problems in the workplace is uninformed decisions. Although any sharing is helpful, simply sharing information—or doing a data dump—isn’t enough. Some employees do share information but never draw conclusions or alert others to problems that are brewing.

Level 2: Issues. You can also refer to issues as problems or challenges that must be shared to insure the health of the organization. Problems that are ignored or hidden grow and become more complicated and expensive to fix as time passes.

Level 3: Ideas. Ideas directly impact innovation. You can’t move forward on an idea you don’t know about, and you can’t develop a rough idea into a solution that will positively impact your bottom line if you’ve never heard about it.

In organizations with the strongest HCSC, people proactively share at all three levels: Information, Issues, and Ideas. All are necessary. It’s easy to see why organizations that promote proactive sharing—up, down, and across the organization—are more effective and efficient and able to dramatically increase revenue and profits.

Taking Responsibility

Sharing is destructive rather than constructive if people don’t take responsibility. When people share but play the blame game, others will get defensive, hunker down, and blame back. This behavior can actually stall organizational growth. If left unattended, destructive sharing becomes entrenched in the culture and can lead to a downward spiral for the organization. By encouraging everyone to take responsibility rather than to shift it, organizations find solutions rather than fault and create an environment that encourages people to take initiative, think out of the box, and excel with velocity.


Because organizations consist of people, and people make up culture, understanding whether your employees are enhancing your organization’s HCSC or undermining it is crucial. The grid below identifies the four key modalities that employees operate with (usually without even knowing it) and demonstrates each modality’s level of proactive sharing and taking responsibility. All employees fall into one of the four categories — Pointers, Apologists, Hiders, and Assets — and, as the grid reveals, each impacts your HCSC. These categories are not personality types; they are modes or perspectives that anyone can fall into.

The reason to identify these roles is not to place blame, but rather to create awareness and develop a plan to move people into the Asset category. Helping employees become fully engaged benefits your organization and everyone in it. As you look at these perspectives, remember
to assume your employees have good intentions. Many people want to do their best for you, but their past experiences can lead to wrong conclusions and actions in the present. Understanding these modalities will enable you to improve your culture, engage your employees, and get your organization to operate as close to full capacity as possible. Let’s take a look at each one.

Honesty Grid- final 8.26.13

To get the rest of this article on how to identify the four categories – Pointers, Apologists, Hiders, and Assets – and learn how to convert all of your employees into Assets, send an email request to breyana@stevengaffney.com or call 703-241-7796. Feel free to circulate as well!

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