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).

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Fire the Liar

Honesty is one of the best leadership policies. Exceptional inside-out leadership requires brutal honesty with oneself. Honesty is uncomfortable, vulnerable, painful, and never easy. However, it is what you need to lead yourself and your team. Please don’t lie to yourself even when the truth makes you feel bad about yourself. You can’t lead yourself as long as you are lying to yourself. Lying isn’t leading, and people don’t respect liars. What do we do when we come across a serial liar in our team? We don’t lead a liar; instead, we fire the liar. Therefore, if we are honest with ourselves, we need to fire the version of ourselves that keeps lying to us and making excuses for all the dumb decisions we are taking.

We were taught that the worst thing in the world is to feel bad about ourselves. There is something worse than feeling bad about ourselves. It is not doing anything about the thing that is making us feel bad about ourselves. We even do not realize that we are holding on to something that has got a hold on us, and we need to let go of those things from our lives. Sometimes we struggle to prioritize between what we value most and what we want immediately. But let me tell you this, you cannot lead yourself well until you discover what you value the most. Once discovered, you need to prioritize what you value the most over what you want now. It would be best to define your perimeter around your behavior, thought life, and relationships to better lead yourself. Ultimately the exceptional leaders lead themselves towards what they value the most but not what they want now.

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Be Trustworthy

Let me ask you a question. How often do you say you will do things that you don’t do? Are you someone who says something meaning the other and doing altogether something else? If the answer is yes, then you are going to fall as a leader very soon. Credibility is built on trust. To cultivate credibility, you must build trust, earn trust, and get people to trust you. I don’t know which industry you are currently working in, and that does not matter. If you are reading this blog, I assume that you are already a leader or aspiring to be a leader. I want to remind you that irrespective of your industry, a leader is always in the trust business. Communication is the key to generating trust. A trustworthy leader knows how to communicate with his followers sincerely and consistently. From my personal experience listening to and understanding what others have to say before giving advice or providing direction makes a huge difference.

One of my direct reports often says to me, “I will get that to you today without fail,” and then he doesn’t. I know that he is guilty of committing this sin repeatedly. If someone is doing this time and again, then they’ve got a credibility problem. If you’re not sure you can follow through on a promise, please don’t make it. When you say you will get back to someone in 30 minutes, you must go back to them in 30 minutes. Period. When you say, you will present the project report in 2 days, show up and present the report in two days. Period. Trustworthiness is also about being diligent at work. One of my staff members gets lots of personal calls at work. His mailbox is always filled with emails from friends or receipts from internet shopping. It’s time for him to realize that he has a credibility problem when personal matters start to interfere with his job or even appear to do so.

If you want to gain your credibility as a leader, you must ensure little things are taken care of because little things do matter. First, you must practice the DWYSYWD rule. It means – “Do what you say you will do.” As a leader, you must always remember one thing. If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message. It simply means gaining trust is the essential thing to become a good leader. If you don’t DWYSYWD, then your people will trust you less, and you will also end up trusting yourself less. So now my question to you is – do you do what you say you will do?

I always believe in people, expect the best in others, and enjoy being around people. I always operate on the principle that most people want to do the right thing and give people room to succeed rather than being skeptical. Your credibility multiplies when you keep the best interests of the people around you all the time.

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It’s A Wrap

I am feeling many different emotions as I complete writing my 2nd book on leadership. It’s such a great relief that it’s done, and the process I started 14 months ago has now ended. I gave it my best by writing 30 minutes a day on average most days.

Writing a book can be really scary. But, there is a secret to reducing fear and accomplishing big goals in our life. Take Action!  The crazy thing about big scary goals is that they become less big and less scary the closer we move towards them consistently and intentionally. The secret to being productive is to work on the right thing, even if it’s at a slow pace.

To write a great book, you must first become the book. Every chapter that I wrote in this book is a reminder to myself. I wrote about leadership in this book because I am learning about leadership, and I consider myself the first reader and first learner. I have studied, understood, and lived the ideas mentioned here in this book myself first. This December, I promise to offer you a conglomeration of the best ideas the world’s great leaders figured out a long time ago, which are time-tested, well-proven, and easy to learn.

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Credibility is the new leadership currency

 

Do as I say, not as I do attitude won’t take you much farther in your leadership journey. You should be a worthy example so that people will say someday; I would like to be just like my leader. Your credibility depends on your track record of making a difference in people’s lives and people’s belief in you that you will do what you say. If you want to be a leader who wants to be followed or listened to, you should lead by example. By leading the way, you are creating confidence in the people around you. Always remember that when the leader lacks confidence, the team lacks commitment.

 

Once upon a time, a young boy was addicted to eating sugar. His mother warned him several times not to eat sugar as it is not good for his health. But the boy didn’t listen to his mother. Finally, the mother decided to get help from Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation. So, she took her son to the Ashram and requested Gandhiji to tell her son to stop eating sugar, as it is not good for his health. Gandhiji replied, “I cannot tell him that right now, but you can bring him back after a month, and then I will talk to him.” Hearing this, the mother was confused and upset that Gandhiji didn’t give any solution. So, she and her son went back home. After a month, they met Gandhiji again in the Ashram. This time Gandhiji looked at the boy and said, “Young boy, you should stop eating sugar as it’s not good for your health. Listen to your mother and follow her”. The boy promised that he would not do that again. The boy’s mother, out of curiosity, asked Gandhiji, “Why didn’t you tell him last time when I bought him here?” Gandhiji smiled and said, “Mother, last time when you came, I had the habit of eating a lot of sugar myself.”

A credible leader should always be a worthy example. Never ask your subordinates to do anything that you would not do yourself. Take every possible opportunity to show your team that you are willing to perform whatever is necessary for them to succeed.

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