Be Honest


As a leader, in addition to meeting your deadlines or achieving all your goals, it’s vital to foster a healthy and honest work culture. I tell my team that it’s ok to fail, but it’s not okay not to evolve. Therefore, my team is always honest about disclosing their mistakes. Our work culture is such that when someone messes up, they know whom to ask for help; they disclose their mistake and promptly correct the problem by taking the necessary help or advice. Later we collectively learn from the mistake and look for ways and means to improve the process and document them so that none of us would commit the same mistake again.

It is important to set up a culture where people earn more credibility by admitting their mistakes and learning from them. I have also encountered a few leaders who duck and throw the team under the bus when things go wrong. It leads to mistrust, lack of inspiration, and the fear of trying new things in the team. Great leaders never hesitate to admit their mistakes and take ownership of the team’s failures. Great leaders know that they can’t avoid making mistakes. However, when they do, they are humble enough to admit it and learn from those mistakes. Recently I saw a sign that said, “Company Motto: We make new mistakes.” I loved that idea of failing forward, failing and learning from it, getting up and stepping forward. When we learn what doesn’t work, we are a step closer to what does work.

Whenever I hear one of my senior team members say something like, “To be honest, I think we should…..” it makes me think: Is he typically not honest with me? But I know for a fact that this gentleman is always honest with me. However, prefacing his comments with expressions like “honestly,” “frankly,” “candidly,” or “to be truthful” will make others feel that perhaps his norm is not to be truthful. Therefore, I suggest that such phrases be avoided, conveying the perception that speaking the truth is an exception, rather than the norm, for you.

If you lie at work, eventually, someone will recognize the deception, which will dent your credibility. You might lie, thinking that it is relatively minor. But once a lie is found, people will begin to doubt your honesty and start wondering what else you might have lied about. Do you think it is not possible to lie and remain credible? No, common sense, right!! Therefore, one needs to set themselves a personal standard of always telling the truth. It may not make you famous, but it will unquestionably improve your credibility.

Imagine that you have a medical issue, and you want to see your doctor. You asked a friend of yours to recommend you to a good nephrologist in the city. Your friend recommends you to a highly skilled doctor. At the same time, your friend tells you that the doctor is not an honest person. He has a private practice, and sometimes he will recommend you go for surgery even when it is not required to make money. In addition to this, there are some rumors that sometimes he has stolen a kidney. Will you go to that highly skilled but dishonest doctor? The answer is obviously “No.”

Then your friend goes on to recommend you to another doctor who is a very honest man. He may not charge you money unnecessarily, but there’s an issue. The issue is that the doctor is not so competent. He doesn’t know his job well. The success rate is less than 50 percent, and a few people have died after the surgery. Now, would you visit such a doctor who’s honest but not competent? Again the answer is “No.”

So the question is, what is missing? Why are you not comfortable going to the highly skilled but dishonest doctor and the one who is honest but not highly skilled? The answer is simple, both of them lack credibility. Let’s look at this mathematical equation to understand it better. Credibility = Character X Competence. It means you need to have both character and competence to become credible. In the first doctor’s case, he was competent but lacked integrity or character (0x1=0). The second doctor had character or integrity but lacked competence (1×0=0); therefore, he was not a credible doctor. The only viable way to earn credibility is to build both your character and competence (1×1=1).

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you would love my books, “Don’t Coast” & “GET LEADERized” which are available on Amazon, Flipkart & Notion Press

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