Ask anyone in our society what is one of their top 10 values and you will find that truth is right up there. Why is it then that everyone tells lies? In fact, according to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60 per cent of adults can’t have a 10-minute conversation without lying at least once. It’s no wonder that many industries are so afflicted with lies that the issue is systemic and is ingrained in the very culture of their business.
Lying is an act of personal treason against ourselves on a declared value. We say we value truth, and at the same time we are destroying the very fabric of our belief structure by not speaking the truth.
One of the first questions I ask leaders is about truthfulness. I ask, “What does truthfulness, or rather the lack of truthfulness, cost you on your bottom line?” They always find this to be one of the most uncomfortable questions they are ever asked. However, more than anything else, we are interested in their relationship with the truth. Why ‘the truth’, you ask? Because it is the number one thing you are judged on as leader, especially if you consider that fewer than 10 per cent of leaders claim to tell the truth most of the time.
It’s important for leaders to understand that each time they open their mouths, they are creating the future. Those listening are unforgiving when we lie to them and destroy their dream of the future. Think nothing bad ever came from a white lie? Think again. Lies are costing your business, money, and reputation.
Why you are not a truthsayer?
A hard-won lesson: I tell lies and then pretend they are ‘harmless’. I recall a conversation with one of my team members some years ago with whom I was discussing his performance. When he asked me outright, “Is my job at risk?” I said “No,” when actually it clearly was. When he left the organisation, we calculated the cost of that single lie to the business in cold, hard dollars. It amounted to more than $350,000. An even greater cost was the time, energy, and emotion expended on the greater team and myself. It was also cruel to him.
The bottom line: you will always pay for the truth you do not speak. Search out where the lies are being told in your business and calculate what they are costing you. Either pay now or pay later. Either way—you will pay.
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