A Culture of Honesty

Respectful Dissent


If leaders hope to build a strong reputation, they need to practice transparency about both the good and bad aspects of their business. Donne Smith, former CEO of Tyson Foods explains how to use simple and honest language when describing the performance of an organization and how to receive constructive criticism along the way.

Donnie Smith is the former CEO of Tyson Foods. Donnie's contagious enthusiasm characterized his time at Tyson, influencing more than 110,000 Team Members. Appointed to his role in 2009, his passion was the hallmark of his tenure at the company, which he joined in 1980. He led Tyson Foods to be a company with a conscience, focused on feeding the world great, affordable food, while also making a positive difference in people's lives.



In challenging times, it’s tempting to spin bad news into something positive. As Donnie explained, leaders build solid reputations through consistency. It’s better to talk about both the good and bad of your company than make it into something it is not. 

Think back to a period of difficulty you faced as a leader. How did you address the situation? How did you talk about it to others? In what way did you respond to the temptation to spin bad news into seemingly good news?
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How have you seen that value of transparency in your own experience as a leader? What impact does it have on the people within an organization?
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To what degree do you prioritize transparency in your leadership? What steps could you take to grow in this skill moving forward?
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Good leaders use simple, honest language when describing the performance of their people. Consistency creates a reputation that others can trust. In the same way, creating an environment that frees people to respectfully disagree increases morale and deepens relationships. 



Without welcoming pushback, a leader will never gain a deep understanding of the issues facing his or her organization. This limits the ability to make wise decisions and isolates workers who would otherwise have a valuable perspective to offer. 

In what was do you welcome dissent within your organization? In contrast, what are some ways you limit it, whether or not you intend to? What might cause someone to feel as though they do not have the freedom to dissent?
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What value do differing perspectives have for you and your responsibilities as a leader?
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What practically can you do to invite respectful dissent into your work environment? How can you encourage your people in the freedom to express their opinions?
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In seasons of success as well as times of difficulty, leaders need to hear the honest input of their people. That can only happen by removing the fear of retaliation. Set the standard for your organization. Be intentional about creating avenues for your people to offer their feedback, even if it disagrees with your point of view. Doing so will create deeper perspectives and mature the decision-making within your company.