Since we're celebrating the birthdays of two "honest" presidents this month: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it's fair to ask if they would make it in today's business world/
Joseph Callaway, co-author of Would Washington and Lincoln make it in today's business world? believes the answer is "yes."
Callaway, who wrote the book with his wife JoAnn, says, "If they showed up in 2013 and truly lived up to their reputations, they would find themselves in huge demand. People really, really crave honesty and transparency, and it's mostly because they're such rare qualities these days."
Do a little soul-searching, suggests Callaway. You might be shocked at the number of white lies, exaggerations, misdirections, and lies of omission you're guilty of. For example: I'm not going to meet my deadline so I'll tell him I'm sick to buy myself a couple more days. Or, This is probably not the best vendor for this particular client, but since she (the vendor) sends us a lot of business, I'm going to recommend her anyway.
The occasional lie of omission, or even commission, may not reflect any ill intent toward your clients. But in the long run, even small dishonesties will muddy your relationship and ultimately keep your business from being all it can be.
"We can usually rationalize our small or even large dishonesties," says Callaway. "But when we examine them, we can see that our lies, little or big, are told to benefit ourselves-to make more money, to cover up mistakes, or to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.
"Making the decision to always put your clients first instead-which means telling them the truth and letting the chips fall-will transform your business," he adds. "It may not happen overnight, but it will over time as you gain a reputation for transparency and trustworthiness. And it will change your life. Just ask Abraham Lincoln, who 'lost' a lot of money during his lawyer career because he didn't like to charge exorbitant amounts, and encouraged clients to settle out of court when it was in their best interests-even though he didn't get paid!"
Whether in the days of Washington and Lincoln or right now, telling the truth is not rocket science. Honesty really is the best policy in business and in life. Callaway gives seven solid reasons why:
It's why you exist. If you're in business, you provide either a good or a service that's aimed at making the consumer's life easier, better, fuller, etc. In other words, your raison d'être comes down to helping other people. When you think about your job description in those terms, you'll have to admit that while it may not always be comfortable, telling the truth is what's in the client's best interest.
Truth breeds trust. It's simple: When the customer knows he can expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth from you, he'll trust you. And especially in the wake of so many business scandals (Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase, and even Bernie Madoff spring to mind), trust isn't something you'll automatically get from a client. You'll have to earn it. And once you have done so, you'll most likely have a client for life.
It helps you show-and earn-respect. No doubt you've been lied to at some point in your life. When you found out that the proverbial wool had been pulled over your eyes, how did you feel? Of course you were angry and hurt, but chances are, you also felt belittled. That's because it's offensive and demeaning when someone doesn't think you can "handle the truth." On the flip side, though, when you hear the truth-even if it's not what you expected-you feel empowered and respected.
The truth will set you free. Remember when you were a kid and your mother told you that if you told her the truth about how the lamp really got broken, you'd feel better? She was right! Making a commitment to always tell the truth will take a weight off your shoulders that you might not have known was even there! Not only do lies have their own psychic weight, they complicate your life. Truth telling simplifies it.
Honesty is a catalyst for personal evolution. As you walk the path of putting your clients first, promises Callaway, you'll evolve as a person, not just as a professional. That's because being honest with your clients isn't always easy. In fact, in some situations, it might be one of the most difficult things you've ever done. But just as sore muscles after weightlifting means that your body is getting healthier and stronger, feeling uncomfortable but telling the truth anyway means that your motivations and intentions are moving toward a higher plane.
Telling the truth is the best insurance. No matter what industry or field you're in, things are occasionally going to go wrong. Despite your best efforts, clients will sometimes be disappointed and angry, and some will seek retribution. While you can't prevent this eventuality, you can protect yourself by consistently being honest.
Honesty is a powerful magnet. When you cultivate a reputation for honesty, you'll be surprised by how quickly and how far the word spreads. Clients want to work with businesses that won't play them false, and when they believe they've found a good thing, they'll tell others! And, of course, they themselves will stay loyal.
"Sticking with the truth isn't always easy-it's something you have to dare to do," concludes Callaway. "Why else do you think George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are revered for doing so? But remember, everything has an impact-and the price of not trusting the truth is always more expensive than the alternative."
# # #