Dorothy Parker said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.” In the United States, we tend to value beauty. We create pleasing buildings and beautiful workspaces. But it is often the ugly that builds successful teams and companies.

Growth cannot occur without ugly. To be ugly is to be honest, brave and authentic. It is to speak the actual, sometimes ugly truth. What are the obstacles you are facing that are prohibiting better performance? Write them down. Pin them up. Make them visible so they can be addressed.

A Silicon Valley speaker, Tim Leberecht, said that the ugliest part of our body is our brain. It tends to cause us to question things that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Things can get uncomfortable when employees are given answers but not permitted to ask questions. Successful teams and organizations continue to ask questions. They embrace the ugly truth and, because leaders cannot be everywhere at once, they seek and appreciate when it is brought to their attention.

One company sat down with their employees and wrote down all the barriers they could think of that were prohibiting success. They put them on boards and put all the boards in a room they called The Ugly Room. Another did something similar but called them elephant boards, referencing the elephant in the room that we all see but of which we don’t speak. Same concept – we must shine a light on the ugly truth making sure everyone can see it and giving everyone permission to talk about it.

As leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand. After all, how can solutions be generated for issues we don’t even talk about?

Remember, organizations that value the ugly are beautiful places to work.

Do you work for an organization that values the ugly truth in search of true beauty? We would love to hear about it. Comment below or share with us privately. If you are ready to embrace the ugly, contact us to help you get started.


Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash