We interviewed Elly Johnson, an expert in truth dilemmas, as a part of our Career Advancement Series. In this Four-Part Interview Series, Elly sets the stage by explaining how truth and lies live in the workplace. She guides job searchers in ways to handle the question, "why did you leave your last job?" when the real answer may scare you to disclose. She offers some helpful ways to explain gaps or quick changes in employment, and some questions to ask your interviewer to encourage honesty on all sides. Learn from this truth and deception expert how you can encourage more truth from others, accurately read behavior, and spot signs of deception early.
MAC- So how in the world did you make the jump from being a rookie police officer at 22 into the Founder and Managing Director of TruthAbility?
Elly - When I was in the police force, I became fascinated with interviewing and the truth and being able to elicit the truth. Because I realized there was a gap in the ability of many police officers to be able to uncover the truth when they needed it most, which was pretty much every day. When I left the police force and joined the corporate world, I worked in sales and sales management and recruitment, and I saw a similar thing out there too. So many people were conducting interviews, and there was a gap in awareness about how to get the truth, or how to give the truth or speak the truth. In 2001, I started a business to help people who conducted interviews or who were involved in interviews be able to speak the truth and be able to elicit the truth and to spot signs of deception if it is there. I've had this business for around 18 years.
MAC- You coined a phrase, "truth dilemma." Can you define what a truth dilemma is and how it applies to us in our lives at work?
Elly - It sums up everything I've been working on since I started this business, or since my fascination with uncovering the truth and detecting deception started. I realized that people have so much of a challenge with the truth, but everyone wants the truth, but everybody lies every day, we are lied to, and we lie every day, it's all around us. The word "dilemma" kept on coming up in my head when I heard stories and coaching people and training people. I thought people have this truth dilemma, which the definition of that is the challenge that comes with speaking, hearing, hiding, or uncovering the truth. It can tie us in knots, it can impact our lives, and it can impact on our health as well.
MAC- Particularly inside of an organization there are many times where there are things that they're just not going to disclose to their employees, and what skills or what tactics would you advise a listener out there who wants to encourage their manager or another leader to be more truthful and just level with them?
Elly - There's always going to be things hidden, and some for the right reasons, so the truth doesn't need to come out every time, 100% of the time. I think it comes back to what I said before about creating that foundation for honesty. You need to think through what sort of relationships you want to have. Creating a plan and a strategy, and it doesn't happen overnight, you need to think, "What is it I'm trying to create here, "what sort of culture?" A culture of truthfulness and honesty and trust, that's what's going to get a team rocking. You take those elements out, and you've got people talking behind backs and backstabbing, and so much BS that it's always going to fall apart at some point. I think it's a strategy, and it's being able to have those conversations to say, "You know what, I think we can do better." It involves having some crucial conversations as creating an environment that encourages more truth, but it's a longer strategy, and you need to put some work into it.
In Part Two of our Interview, Truth expert Elly Johnson shares how to answer that all-important interview question: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”
Looking for truth in your life at work?
Make sure to check out all four parts of our powerful interview with Elly Johnson: