Creating a work environment where leaders and employees feel comfortable and safe telling the truth is a critical component to organizational success. But, in reality, many employees don’t tell the truth to their leaders—out of fear, out of politeness—and leaders need to know how to tell when their employees are being honest and transparent.

If you want to spot deception in your employees, you need to observe each employee under relaxed, stress-free conditions. While observing them, notice their speech tone, gestures, blinking patterns, etc. Practicing this will give you the ability to spot differences while they are talking to you.

Telling the truth will bring success

“…your single best defense against failure, as a leader, is to create an environment where people will tell you the truth,” wrote a Forbes contributor.

“Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer,” Jack Welch said. He also identified truth-telling as “vital to winning”.

Signs that a team member isn’t being fully honest

When watching someone speak, be especially observant within the first five seconds of asking a question. Look out for these signs of liars: 

  1. Run-on sentences. Truth sentences are usually short, no more than 7 to 12 words.
  2. Physical expression that is limited and stiff, with few arm and hand movements.
  3. Timing that is off between emotions/gestures/expressions and words.
  4. Gestures/expressions that don’t match the words spoken.
  5. Using the other person’s words to answer a question. “Were you late this morning?” “No, I was not late this morning.”
  6. Repeating question to stall for time, go into attack mode, or butter up the questioner with compliments.
  7. Sweating profusely.
  8. Using fewer contractions. Statements with contractions are more likely to be truthful. “I wasn’t late” instead of “I was not late”.
  9. Adding unnecessary details to convince and distract the other person
  10. Vocal tones that rise to a higher pitch.
  11. Sudden swallowing in gulps, or the need to drink water or moisten lips.
  12. A larger pupil size.
  13. Nervousness and anxiety displayed through increased foot movements.
  14. When people are about to lie or make an outrageous statement, they will often unconsciously rub their nose.
  15. Someone who looks down and away, and then back at you.

These signs come from, the books Spy the Lie by three CIA veterans, Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero, and Forbes.

Have a peer group or an advisory board to help detect lies 

Another way to tell if employees are lying, other than watching out for the signs above, is to create a peer group or an advisory board to help your organization be more authentic. Peer advisory groups can be especially helpful to CEOs, Presidents, and other senior level executives because the peers are providing unbiased advice.  They can be transparent without fear of losing their jobs or status their company.

One example of a peer advisory group is Vistage, which provides professionally facilitated peer advisory experiences on a monthly basis with up to 16 peers. I have had the opportunity to facilitate Vistage group meetings since 2006 and have witnessed first hand the power of honest feedback that is unmatched to feedback from an executive team whose livelihood is dependent on keeping the boss “happy”.

What other ways of detecting when employees are lying do you know?

For more information on Vistage, visit Vistage and the Forbes article referenced  Forbes contributor.

Photo Credit: Flickr user  Endlisnis