It’s hard to find an honest, trustworthy business. But it doesn’t take an expensive consultant to start the process of strengthening your business’ trustworthiness. Honesty is free. And it builds character by forcing you to deal with your shortcomings rather than hiding from them, giving you a business you can be proud to run. And although honesty is “free,” it takes commitment to exercise. So let’s talk about why it’s worth it and a simple process for making it happen today.
Dishonesty Cripples Success
Dishonesty — whether it’s small or almost imperceptible or outright lying — prevents success and potential for success. It hides your faults from the light, so you can’t see them in order to work on them. And workarounds are usually not ideal, especially when it comes to the integrity of your business. It makes you timid, so people don’t ask too many questions or begin to act and create things that could enrich your career and your relationships. It pushes away genuine relationships that would otherwise help you grow.
So dishonesty costs you, both in intentional and unintentional ways, prevents us from growing as a company (and as individuals as well). Now, let’s talk about how to use honesty as a tool to build your business using people you have around you every week.
Step 1: Build your team
Most of us have people around us — our team members, managers, co-owners, and friends — who can help us deal with things. The first step is to figure out who you’re talking to. So who should be on your team?
Defining your inner circle is one of the most important decisions you make. It may be someone you regularly see on Sunday or at an event. Or maybe it’s someone you’ve known for a while. Either way, you want someone you can trust to be able to give you advice and for whom you can return the favor when they need help.
Here are the requirements for someone in your inner circle:
- They need to care about you. They have to care about you on a personal level. It can’t be someone who has ulterior motives…at least with the topic you’re discussing with them. You may respect your father-in-law, but you can’t expect his objective input in a decision you may make to move (read: move his grandchildren) across the country for a business opportunity.
- They need to want your success. They have to selflessly want you to succeed. Some people are a little jealous, even if you can trust them in other areas. Watch out for people who compare themselves with others and make sure they don’t see you as competition.
- They need to understand the vision…the picture of the person you want to be and the company you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to build a lifestyle business — where you spend more time with family — it doesn’t help to get advice from someone who’s advice is constantly pushing you toward never-ending growth.
- They need to be perceptive. This often means listening and asking a few questions before giving advice. So if an experienced person fails to listen, but would rather tell you how he did it, watch out. You want someone who is willing to understand your situation before dispensing advice too quickly.
Everyone (including employees). This is the second tier of accountability that comes from your employees — the ones who care about the right things, anyway. You can’t count on your employees to be devoted to your company, especially if they’re not an owner. But there should be a level of loyalty and buy-in. This usually means they care about your values, they have a realistic understanding of business and they believe that, as someone taking a paycheck, it’s up to them to live those values out on your behalf.
- Agree with your values. So if they don’t care about your values or don’t understand them, they might not be qualified to speak to your values. They won’t point out hypocrisy (because they don’t care) unless they just don’t like you. And they won’t find ways to build your values into the company’s processes.
- Understand business. If they don’t know how business works or don’t respect the value of free people making deals and keeping their word, they might have less-practical and more idealistic ideas. These people might need more experience before you can really trust them. And if you invite their feedback and never take any of their advice, they could feel a little used.
- They feel responsible to live out your values. This means they put extra effort and thought into how they represent you every day. It’s these people who will sense a problem when what they tell a customer is at odds with the reality, and they’ll tell you. Why? Because they value honor and don’t want to put up with hypocrisy. And they’d like to work someplace that doesn’t cause them to constantly feel they’re acting in a way that’s incongruent with values, both yours and theirs.
Step 2: Paint the Target
Do you have your circle? Tell them who you want to be as a company. Now that you have your people selected, how do they make you better? What do you need to do?
Define: What is the company you want to have?
What are your values? How do you do things? What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what does that mean for how you operate?
Who’s the leader you want to be, in your eyes?
- Who can lead that type of company? The one you just described above?
- What are your shortcomings?
- What are your strengths?
- What kinds of problems are you facing in getting your company where it needs to go?
How do your values compare with real life?
- In contracts and the bidding process
- Employee relationships
- What else?
Step 3: Practice Honesty
Begin practicing truth in your daily activities. Because life is your proving ground.
Where to do it:
- In business deals: Where are you stretching the truth?
- In business practices: What do you hope nobody finds out?
- In how you feel: What, about you, are you embarrassed about? Keep in mind that you could be embarrassed by things that aren’t really bad because of how we sometimes over-blame. This is why you need an outside opinion.
Show your work:
- To your inner circle. Talk about how you do business: what complaints people have against you, what you hope they don’t find out and things you see as failures.
- To your team. Don’t focus on yourself with blame, but talk with each other without assigning guilt. Ask for help and for ideas in executing real improvement.
Focus on change: Instead of lying, hiding, or stretching the truth, change your behavior.
Americans spend tons of money on therapists to solve the problem of dishonesty. They’re not honest with themselves. This spreads to family, business and other relationships. But a commitment to honesty can put the truth right in front of you, in all its ugliness and clarity. Let honesty be your coach. And then accept its tough lessons, learn quickly, and build up the character that will give you confidence and a spine of steel.