We are in a transition of truthfulness. Technology has changed the way we think about what’s real and what’s been modified – creating blurry lines between perceptions and reality.
For example, credit card “safety” no longer includes a traditional pillar of safety – privacy. Credit card safety is now achieved through predictive analytics and constant monitoring of purchases; quite the opposite of privacy.
Technology has modified how we perceive safety with car services – for many of us, a navigation and tracking system like the ones found in popular ride-sharing services makes us feel safer than a taxi driver who has passed a background safety check. It is hard to determine which is the more authentic version of safety.
Another example of how technology has modified the truth is photo filters. With the touch of a button, a photo can easily be manipulated and shared with millions of people. While a flower crown or a puppy face is a fun addition for social media pictures, what happens when filtered photos are presented as real and passed around social media channels, gaining legitimacy with every click, like and share? Combined with our ever-decreasing attention spans and memories that are increasingly dependent on the content we share via social media, and photo filters become a variation on reality, an inch further from an authenticity.
As we move away from privacy and authenticity and become easily modifiable, we lose the honesty and benefits of being honest – trust, reliability, loyalty. Without honesty, companies lose their personal connection to buyers, their internal teams are not efficient, and their business partnerships don’t last. Loyalty becomes obsolete. As business leaders, it is our responsibility to encourage truth so that honesty is a core value to our internal team and our customers.
How can we encourage honesty within our organization? By removing the pitfalls that distort reality and creating opportunities for genuineness.
Create a safe place
I don’t mean an office that meets required occupational safety standards, I mean an environment that is a safe place for people to learn and grow in their roles. Encourage colleagues to share their mistakes, how they overcame the mistake and the lessons they learned. Help teammates teach each other by encouraging them to provide constructive feedback in a productive way. Focus on problem solving, and not blaming individuals, to help the team develop integrity. As the leader, it is also important for you to disclose your own mistakes and lessons learned to help the team recognize that mistakes as learning opportunities and not punishments.
People feel more empowered when they are trusted. Give your team assignments and deadlines, time to work and the ability to ask questions, then give them space to do their job. Eliminating micromanagement practices help employees feel respected and motivated to complete their work while building pride and integrity.
Do not make promises that can be broken
Your words have tremendous value, so don’t sacrifice them. As a business leader, you have the knowledge and experience to anticipate potential problems. Review business plans with a watchful eye on timing and pricing, guarantees and other promises customers will count on. Set realistic expectations with your internal team about promotions, raises and bonuses. Do not give lip service to the executive team. Breaking promises, resetting expectations and over committing leads to disappointment, which deteriorates trust and your words lose their value and your reputation as reliable.
Don’t sacrifice values
Honesty is perhaps best tested in crisis. Leading with honesty and truthfulness to do the right thing, even if it’s extra work or the outcome is intimating. If the crisis is handled with honesty, the virtue of honesty will be stronger than ever when its resolved. If you try to cover up the crisis, a downward spiral of dishonesty and lies will begin.
This doesn’t mean disclose classified or time-sensitive information, but be upfront in a timely, open manner. If the product is delayed, be truthful about when it will be delivered. If a service is cancelled, offer a reliable alternative. If expectations for a product or service can’t be met, don’t try to conceal the situation. Challenges will be overcome, but an untrustworthy reputation is nearly impossible to overcome. Being transparent creates a culture of honesty where rumors cannot thrive and truthfulness raises to the top.
One of the most obvious indicators of untruthfulness is inconsistency. As Mark Twain said “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” While important aspects can be tailored to each audience/group, putting truthfulness at the forefront of every conversation will leave no room for doubt. Consistency is a key aspect of building and maintaining trust.
When you think about mentors and leaders that have resonated with you the most, you will likely notice a common theme – the most aspirational people we encounter have shown us their true selves. Be that relatable person for your team; transparent and filter-free without pretense or ulterior motives.
In our pursuit of honesty, we can help create more defined lines between perceptions and reality. We develop into a more trust-worthy company, which helps build customer loyalty and in turn, helps our products and services succeed.
Jennifer Davis is the chief marketing officer for the international business of Leyard, including the Planar and Runco brands. She is a senior executive who uses entrepreneurial skills to build high-performing businesses, product lines, and go-to-market strategies. Davis has spoken at marketing, design and technology conferences, including InfoComm and the Digital Signage Expo, and is a regular contributor to industry, technology, and business publications globally. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferdavis or visit www.atjenniferdavis.com.