Honesty, Integrity and Straightforwardness - The Character Series, Part 1
Spinning the truth can help us survive another day... AND it will inevitably start the clock on a nightmare waiting to happen!
Let's say, for example, your investor call is coming up and your numbers aren’t that great. Other times, you might have to deliver bad news, or someone is asking for feedback. Or the grandfather of inconvenience: you have made a mistake and are called upon to explain.
Nobody is exactly looking forward to moments and situations like these, and that's understandable: so much is on the line! Whatever we say or do, we know there will most likely be some sort of negative consequences, if we told the truth. Naturally and instinctively, we are looking for ways to shield us from suffering those anticipated negative consequence.
How will we save the day? What is the right thing to do?
Let's start with the right answer: Your best bet for creating lasting good outcomes is to “talk straight”, to use the truth and to use it unconditionally.
Why unconditionally? Well, we’ve seen people use the truth in a counterfeit way. And while counterfeit strategies may save the day for some people, it does exponentially more harm to the deceiver and to other people in the long run.
The truth has a way of coming out, one way or another.
For creating the best possible future, when faced with a challenging situation, all you really have is the truth!
Using the truth in a counterfeit way really is nothing much more than a skilful way of lying or deceiving.
So what would be examples of a counterfeit move of using the truth?
- You’ll find it in withholding information.
- You’ll find it in beating around the bush to derail someone when they where suspicious.
- You’ll find it in telling the truth in a way that intentionally creates a false impression.
- You’ll find it in the “creative” design of quarterly business reports and the masking of losses or poor performances.
- You'll find it when someone intentionally uses overly-complicated language
- You’ll find it in the feedback that leaves out the negatives and focuses only on the positives
You can choose to do any of these things, and if you are good at it, you will probably get away with a lot - for the moment. But what kind of leaders would it make us, to go down the path of abusing the truth in such a manner?
It would certainly represent a terrible deficit of character. It would be entirely unbecoming of a worthy leader. This is the kind of behaviour that is ultimately responsible for the pervasive and permanent lack of trust, toxic work cultures, deep disappointment and many other negative long-term effects to important relationships at work, that most of us have been on the receiving end of at some point!
In politics, abusing the truth can also lead to political polarization of the population, which in turn can lead to violence and wars.
“Spinning the truth” points to significant character deficits in positions of power!
At an organizational level, such practices have been the downfall of leaders, dragging everyone else with them. At a political level such practices have frequently led to the suffering of humankind - throughout history.
Too dramatic? It’s not!
To pick just one example, do you remember the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Irak? Once you start looking for examples, you’ll find many. Whether on the global political stage or in a leading position of any kind, at any level in an organization, leaders have the largest impact.
Exemplary leaders change the world for the better, by committing to the following statements:
1) The higher our position of power, the stronger our commitment to the truth HAS to be!
2) The higher the position for which we elect a leaders, or promote someone into, the more vigilant we HAVE to be for a candidate’s strong commitment to a worthy character!
3) People - especially leaders - who talk straight AND leave the right impression, that use the truth without spinning it, that call things for what they are and let others know where they stand in no uncertain terms, are basing their actions on the worthy life principles of honesty, integrity and straightforwardness!
Not just right, but also more effective in the long run
Leaders who embody these principles have the strongest, most loyal following. Their ability to create positive influence is through the roof!
Look what happens when we find that our leaders are indeed committed to “talking straight”: TRUST remains intact - even when the truth has been inconvenient. In such a case we are ready to move on together with them. We are ready to help. We are ready to help the other person to do better next time.
We would be willing to stay or become co-creators of a better future. We might even become a more devoted follower or supporter, than we have been before.
Always talk straight. There are no shortcuts without terrible consequences on this one.