CEO Advice: Watch How Funny Your Jokes Get.

Adam Bryant of The New York Times asked Nell Minow, the co-founder of Corporate Library what she learned from her best boss:

“Watch how funny your jokes get.” And I must think about that three or four times a week. Not because I’m telling a joke and people are laughing, but because I need to remind myself constantly of the challenge that gets tougher and tougher as you get higher in the organization to get people to be honest with you. And that was just outstanding advice.

Who will tell you the truth?

We have long distrusted back-slapping salespeople that flatter us because we know they have an agenda. We forget that our direct reports, employees, board of directors, advisors, consultants and everyone else we are in relationship with also has an agenda.

At Vistage International, the company I work for, we create groups of up to 16 local business owners, company presidents, and CEOs who meet monthly in a group setting to help each other tackle the most challenging issues they face in running and growing their businesses. We only allow one member from each industry and there are no competitors, major suppliers, or customer relationships in the group. This assures an open forum for discussion in a confidential environment where members have no other agenda than telling the truth.

The truth is not always to hear; it does provide for the capacity to make better decisions and get better results.