How Your Comfort Zone May Be Hurting You

There is a story in the New Testament about one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter who walked on water. As the story goes, the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee one night in high winds and rough waters. Jesus, who had stayed behind to dismiss a crowd and spend some time alone, came to them walking on the water. When they first saw him they were terrified, thinking it was a ghost. When Jesus reassured them he was not a ghost, and that it was he, Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So, Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on the surface of the water for a bit. That’s what I call getting out of your comfort zone!

When Your Comfort Zone Helps You

I wonder what might have been going on in Peter’s head during that conversation. Everything in him would have been telling him to stay in the boat. Sure the boat was in high winds and rough waters, but inside the boat was the safest place to be. In that moment the boat was his comfort zone. He was a fisherman who spent most of his career in a boat. Rough waters and high winds were nothing new to him. “Stay in the boat!” is what I’m sure that voice inside his head was screaming.

A comfort zone is defined as “a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.” There is a part of us, sometimes called the “little voice inside our head,” that is very attuned to anything that threatens to disrupt our comfort zone. That’s what was screaming at Peter. When the things that threaten our comfort zone are dangerous, that little voice is very helpful. It keeps us from harm. Maybe you can remember a time, for example, when “something” told you not to do business with a certain person and you found out later they were a crook. Hooray little voice!

When Your Comfort Zone Hurts You

The problem with that little voice is that it’s programmed, not intelligent. By that I mean it reacts the same way to anything that might alter the status quo (comfort zone) whether the change would be good or bad. In the case of a challenge that might lead to great things, that little voice becomes an internal “saboteur,” that could destroy your future. It can’t tell the difference between good change and bad change.

Peter ignored his internal saboteur initially and got out of the boat. I say initially because the story continues. It goes on to say that when Peter saw what he was doing and then saw the waves, he began to sink and Jesus had to grab hold of him and pull him up to safety. We all know what happened. Peter was doing something extraordinary until he listened to his internal saboteur who said, “Look at the waves!” That’s when the extraordinary thing began to crumble.

The End of the Story

Now, let’s give credit where credit is due. Peter got out of the boat, which is more than many of us can say about the challenges or dreams we’re contemplating. What is your “little voice” saying to you about those challenges or dreams? “You’re not ready.” “You wouldn’t know what to do.” “You’ve got responsibilities.” “You can’t be serious.” Is your little voice helping or hurting? Only you can decide.

The twist to the Peter story is that the situation confronting Peter was, in fact, dangerous. In that case, his little voice was attempting to keep him from harm. Peter got out anyway. What he learned about himself and about his relationship with Jesus in those moments, could not have been learned any other way. What do we make of that?

Just after grabbing hold of him, the end of that story is Jesus saying to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When it comes to the challenges or dreams you’re contemplating now, what will be the end of your story?

What’s in the Box?

We have four people in our house who will order something on Amazon or through some other online source from time to time. So, you never know when a box or package may show up on the porch. When you see a box on the porch and you’re not the one who ordered something, the response is almost always, “Ooh, what’s in the box?” You get really curios really fast.

Curiosity is defined as “A strong desire to know or learn something.” It is the driving force behind innovation and creativity. Some of the smartest and most influential people have had these things to say about curiosity.

“I have no special talent, I’m only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein

“The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” Albert Einstein

“Creativity is Intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein – Curiosity is the fuel of creativity

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” Sir Ken Robinson

“The most important thing a teacher can do for students is to keep their curiosity alive,” Ken Robinson. [see his TED talk on the subject. It’s the most watched TED talk of all time]

“The future belongs to the curious, the ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.” Unkown

If all this is true, I wonder why more of us aren’t more curious.

Semper Gumby

Several years ago I worked with a team that adopted the slogan “Semper Gumby.” Borrowing the Latin word “Semper” from the U.S. Marine’s motto meaning “Always,” we added “Gumby” to fill out the meaning “Always Flexible.” The idea first came up as a joke after a client had asked for yet another change in the program of services this team was offering. We later came to realize that the nimble flexibility the team provided this client was precisely why they did business with them. They saw flexibility as a differentiating strength.

Making it Personal

The first year we lived in China, one of the veterans of overseas living said to me, “to be successful living in Asia, you have to be willing to live with ambiguity.” He was right. I learned that the more of my western expectations I was able to let go, the more I enjoyed the experience of living there and the more I learned. Put another way, the more flexible I was, the more I was able to grow. We saw some people who came to live and serve who lacked flexibility. Their brittleness quickly became brokenness.

Ambiguity and Flexibility are similar in meaning. Ambiguity means, “the quality of being open to more than one interpretation, inexactness. Flexibility means, “capable of bending easily without breaking; ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances.”

Microsoft developed a list of education competencies, one of them is “Dealing with Ambiguity.” They define that as: “Can effectively cope with change; can shift gears comfortably; can decide and act without having the total picture; can comfortably handle risk and uncertainty.”

If you’re familiar with the “True Colors” personality types, the above definition sounds like an Orange through and through. Our youngest son is an Orange. Ambiguity is his friend. He just returned from a three week trip to Europe with two of his high school buddies. They planned the trip almost as they went. He loved it.

Only 27% of the global population are Orange. Well over half of us have a personality type that prefers a more steady, measured approach to life. We don’t necessarily welcome change as a friend. On the other hand, most of us would acknowledge there are things we would like to get better at. We would like to grow. There is a well-known saying, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying” that has a lot of truth to it. Jack Welch put it this way, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

What Can We Do?

When you get up in the morning, or when you’re about to do something strenuous, what do you do? You stretch. Stretching loosens your muscles so you can use them without damaging them because they become more flexible.

The same thing is true with our minds. We can stretch them to become more flexible which will allow for growth. One simple stretch exercise I’ve done with people involves a mug. I pick up a white mug that has a logo on one side. I show it to the person or group across from me and ask them to describe it. From their point of view it’s a white mug with a handle on the left. When they’re done describing it, I disagree with them and describe the mug from my perspective. I describe the logo and the fact that the handle is on the right. You get the idea. We’re both right, it’s a matter of point of view. To expand on this idea, try using your imagination to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Imagine what it must be like to be (fill in the blank).

Stretching means getting out of our comfort zones. If you’re an analytical type, read some poetry. If you’re poetic, do some math!

In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John C. Maxwell writes about “The Law of the Rubber Band – Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be.”

Let’s stretch!

Action!

The set was ready. Costumes were amazing. Props, lights, mics, cameras were all ready. The actors were in place to begin shooting the first scene of director Phil Martin’s expected new blockbuster film. The anticipation was electric when Mr. Martin called out, “Action,” but nothing happened. Johnny Jones, the lead in the film, just walked off the set, went over to the catering table, picked up a muffin and asked one of the grips how his costume looked. “Cut!” Mr. Martin was livid. Wondering if they had cast the right actor for the lead role, he stormed over to Johnny Jones to find out what was going on.

The story is fictional (in case you couldn’t tell). Could you imagine something like that happening? That kind of thing happens all the time. Individuals and Teams spend hours dreaming and thousands of dollars (or more) planning, making preparations, and strategizing but never do anything. Why? Fear mostly. Fear is the great paralyze-r and the great demoralize-r.

What are we Afraid of?

Here’s a list of four great fears:

  1. Being taken advantage of – if I take action someone else might use my work for their own benefit. I might not get credit for my ideas and effort. I will lose out.
  2. Rejection – what if I make a mistake? The ultimate rejection is being fired. I can’t afford to lose this job.
  3. Loss of security – this is way outside my comfort zone. I’m not sure what to do next if I take this step.
  4. Criticism – I need my peers (or boss) to recognize my value. What if they don’t agree with my action? They might think I’m a liability.

If you recognize yourself in any of those fears, you’re not alone. These are the primary fears of each of the four primary personality types and we all fall into at least one of them.

In my fictional story about the actor Johnny Jones, the conversation would have gone on between he and Mr. Martin about Jones “just not feeling ready.” He has a combination of the fear of rejection and criticism.

Just Do It

Nike made this their slogan for an incredibly successful ad campaign. It was so successful because of how it resonated with people across the board. The slogan challenged us to take action in the face of our fears. It made us dream of being successful.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, said, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” Of course we’ll make mistakes. I’ve recently been working with a group who have a history of decision paralysis for fear of making a mistake (read, “getting in trouble”). The message to them is that it’s better to act. If you make a decision that leaders disagree with, learn and keep going.

Edward Muzio, author and CEO of Group Harmonics, titled a recent Huffpost article “Fail Forward Fast [Get over being right and get on with getting on with it]”

When a plane departs on a flight, the destination and route are set. All the appropriate planning has taken place, so the pilot powers up the engines and takes off. Did you know that during the course of that flight the plane will be off course 90 percent of the time? Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to veer off so the pilot is constantly course correcting throughout the journey.

The U.S. Marines talk about the 70% solution. They know that, in battle, quick and decisive are more powerful than fully informed most of the time. They work hard to streamline their intelligence gathering and decision making timelines but choose to act even when only 70% certain of the situation. Victory usually ensues.

Whatever it is you’re mulling over, whether you’re waiting for more information or a better time, Buy it, sell it, quit it, join it, call it, write it …. Do it! Take Action.

A Mile Wide

We used to live in the great state of Nebraska. It’s a wonderful place with wonderful people. We loved our years there. The Platte River runs through Nebraska. Altogether, including tributaries, the river runs over 1,000 miles. We had the chance to visit a riverside cabin with some friends on one occasion and we went “boating” on the river. I put quotes around the word boating because you can’t boat on the Platte in the conventional way. It’s too shallow. We skimmed the surface of the river on an air boat. It was so fun, fast with quick turns, a great time. The Platte river reminds me of the saying, “A mile wide and an inch deep.”

Although the Platte is beautiful and we had a great time, the saying “A mile wide and an inch deep” is derogatory when talking about people. It means the person may know a little about a lot of things but they don’t know much about any one thing. Or it means their knowledge or intelligence is superficial, shallow.

Another saying about water that’s used of people is “Still water runs deep.” That sounds like something you’d rather have someone say about you, until you look up what that saying originally meant. “Quiet enemies are more dangerous than shallower, more visibly turbulent enemies, so beware.” It’s come to mean something more positive like “a person who seems quiet or shy may surprise you by knowing a lot or having strong feelings.” This whole water/people saying thing has me thinking about the relationship between being still or quiet and being deep.

There is also the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” So, quietness alone is not the indicator of depth.

Shallow or Deep

A deep person is someone respected as having profound insight, knowledge, and wisdom while someone with superficial understanding who is gullible is considered shallow. If Gallup conducted a poll, I wonder how many people would say they wanted to be known as shallow. Among leaders, especially, I’m sure they would prefer to be known as deep.

The question is, can someone become deeper? The answer is yes. No one is born deep. Anyone who is respected for their insight and knowledge was once a kid in elementary school learning to read and write just like the rest of us. They grew deep over time. How? Here are three things we can do to grow deeper.

Ask Good Questions

Sir Francis Bacon said, “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” Looking at it from another angle, Charles P. Steinmetz once wrote, “No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.” Good Questions are usually:

  • Purposeful – you ask based on what you want to learn about the person or the subject, not random or trivial
  • Open – they invite your conversation partner to talk rather that answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”
  • Focused – they ask only one thing at a time
  • Followed up – they begin in more general terms then become more specific to increase understanding

Here’s a post and a couple websites to explore good questions.

Listen

It doesn’t do any good to ask good questions if you don’t listen to the answers. Right? It is sometimes amazing how many people don’t get that.

It is said that LBJ had a plaque on his wall that read, “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when you’re talkin'” Putting the point a little more eloquently, the Dali Lama said, “When you talk you’re only repeating what you already know. But, if you listen, you may learn something new.”

Knowledge, wisdom, and insight come from learning. Learning happens when you listen. Feel free to check out a few previous posts on listening. Scroll down on that page to the category “Listening.”

Reflect

Asking good questions and listening are only two of the essential steps to growing deeper. We should take the time to reflect on what we’ve heard/learned. Earlier I mentioned the still water and wondered about a connection between quietness and depth. Here it is. We should take time to be quiet and let things marinate in our minds.

One of the greatest leaders of all time, Jesus, apparently made a habit of getting alone. In John’s gospel he writes, “Jesus, … withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” What would we do if we followed that example? I’m sure Jesus prayed. That might not be a bad idea. He probably also reflected on the interactions of the day. We could take time to think about what we’ve learned, perhaps connecting the dots to other knowledge.

An important element of reflection is quietness. Sometimes just listening to the quiet allows the “back burner” of your mind to make connections and suggest insights or understanding to your conscious mind. These flashes of insight, as they’re sometimes called, can be very exciting and are the stuff of being deep.

With water, the depth causes the quietness. With people it’s the other way around. Quietness contributes to depth. It’s difficult to be quiet and still in our culture with all the electronic devices and social media. But it’s worth it. Try to schedule some daily time to ask questions, listen, and reflect in quietness. You’ll feel yourself go deeper.

Trust Me!

Yikes! Would you trust him? I’m not sure I would. Although, she seems to be on the board of her own free will and there appear to be at least four successful attempts so far. Still, one wrong move and she’s a goner. The stakes are as high as they get in this relationship. Fortunately, the stakes aren’t nearly that high in most of our relationships. Yet, it seems there is less trust in many of our relationships, especially at work, than there is between these two.

I’ve written on Trust in previous posts. I wrote about the Engager Dynamic called Trust. Later I wrote about How to make a Habit of Trust. Trust is so critical to work that I’m compelled to write about it again. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that the true equation for Results is (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. In that equation low trust is like a tax that diminishes your results and high trust is like a dividend that increases your results. It’s that important.

Credibility Gap

Covey writes about Four Core elements of Self-Trust which he says is all about credibility. The elements are Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. In my experience the question of Intent seems crucial. The new COO of an organization recently distributed his written leadership philosophy. It contained the statement, “We judge ourselves by our intent. Others judge us by our behavior.”

Intent is someone’s planned or desired outcome. Behavior is the manifestation of one’s Agenda and Motive which, hopefully, fully and accurately represent their intent. The COO’s point is that all anyone has to go on when deciding on your credibility is your behavior. They can only discern your intent by what they see you do. Covey makes the great point that often trust is depleted simply because of a poorly executed good intent. The intentions were noble but the behavior failed to accurately reflect the intention. When that happens people interpret the intent by the poorly executed behavior. At best they are confused. At worst they become suspicious of your intent and trust evaporates.

Several weeks ago, I was on a conference call with some corporate leaders. In the room with me were 8 – 10 other team members on speaker phone. One of the corporate leaders congratulated me for a particular accomplishment. I had done none of the actual work to achieve the celebrated outcome so my intent was to give credit where credit was due and I quickly named off the people in the room who had actually achieved that result, except one. I still don’t know how I left that person’s name out but that was a poorly executed good intent.  Later, I apologized but I can never get that moment back.

Prevention

On Covey’s list of the core elements of credibility, intent is the least obvious to the observer. Integrity, capabilities, and results are much easier to see from the outside. It’s the questions about intent, especially for a boss, that cause so much energy to be wasted on suspicion and CYA when trust is low. If someone doesn’t trust their bosses intentions, they will be less productive because they’re wasting time and energy trying to figure out what s/he is up to and planning their next move like a chess player.

There are at least two things you can do to prevent misunderstanding about your intentions. First, declare your intentions. When you take an action or make a decision, let people know what your intentions are for that action. That way, when they recognize the outcome you intended, your credibility goes up.

The second thing you can do is to invite feedback. Don’t assume people will come to you and let you know they are confused about your intentions. Establish yourself as an open person by inviting and then graciously receiving feedback. Do that enough times and people will come to you voluntarily with their feedback. That’s how I found out I had left the person off the list on that conference call. They came to me after the call and told me. They only did that because they knew I was open to feedback.

Cure

By the way, those two steps are also helpful in repairing trust that has been broken. It most likely will have to be in the reverse order, though. Invite feedback when you believe trust is low. You may have to examine and adjust your intent, motive, or agenda to regain credibility. If so, say so. Otherwise explain your intent and make restitution for any harm poor execution may have caused.

Covey’s “Waves of Trust” are a ripple effect starting with one’s personal credibility, which impacts relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and finally societal trust. We have a crisis of trust all around us. Don’t let it prevail in your organization. Take steps to establish your credibility. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Stay In Your Lane

When I was in Junior High and High School, I ran track. Back then races were measured in yards and I did the 100, the 220, the 440 relay and the Long Jump. When you do sprints, you learn pretty quickly that you have to stay in your lane. In fact, if you veer out of your lane, you will be disqualified from the race because it’s very dangerous to be running as fast as you can and have someone bump into you or clip your heel.

Another place where it’s important to stay in your lane is traffic. In fact, you will often see road signs telling you to stay in your lane. There is road construction right now on the highway that goes through our town and they’ve painted solid white lane lines through part of it to remind drivers to stay in their lanes through that part. It involves a lane shift and accidents can happen if people change lanes through there.

What Are They Afraid Of?

I understand, in Track and Field and traffic, why people should stay in their lanes. But what about in organizations? I’ve heard the same admonishment given to people who voiced an idea about something that wasn’t necessarily in their “lane.” The phrase, “Stay in your lane,” is defined in the urban and in the slang dictionary as: “mind your own business, don’t veer over into my (personal) affairs.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says,”The phrase stay in your lane is used as a term of admonishment or advice against those who express thoughts or opinions on a subject about which they are viewed as having insufficient knowledge or ability.”

In organizations, we hire people to perform certain job functions. We need those functions done well so we hire people with related skills and experience. We expect them to focus their time and energy on those functions for which we hired them. When they get out of that “lane,” we fear their primary job function will suffer. We also fear their ideas or advice may be detrimental to the organization if it’s not their area of expertise.

Are You More Than Your Lane?

I guess I don’t want a mechanic giving me advice on taking care of my heart. But, wait, what if that mechanic had recently experienced a heart attack and was sharing with me some things they learned from their cardiologist, helpful changes they’ve made in their own life? Would that change your openness to their advice? It would mine.

I believe, when we require people to “stay in their lanes,” we short change the organization. Everyone who works there is far more, and brings far more to the table than just what is in their “lane.” Their past work experiences, their education, their life experience outside of work all bring potential value to the work at hand. Even their temperament type and their approach to work can add value across lanes.

In one organization that is trying to adopt a culture of freely collaborating across disciplines (lanes), a unique group recently formed on its own to solve a problem. The safety manager (a process guy), the compliance director (responsible for assuring the service meets all contractual and regulatory requirements), and the administrative assistant to the compliance director (a real project manager type), had an idea about how to fix a problem that had plagued the organization for 3 years.

After receiving the green light from the leadership, they went to work. Within a couple weeks this collaborative team took the organization from 35% validated performance to 100% validated performance. They were able to do it because they worked together, outside their lanes, and took an innovative approach to solving the problem.

So, in track and field and in traffic, definitely stay in your lane. In your organization, consider the value of allowing cross lane collaboration. You just might see amazing results.

Love ’em or Lose ’em

Believe it or not, the last eight posts have been around one theme. In the notes where I write and store the posts, I have them titled a little differently from the title with which I published them. I have an additional “tag” on the title. The tag is “Love ’em or Lose ’em.” For example, eight weeks ago the post was called “Are we there yet?” In my notes, it’s called “Love ’em or Lose ’em – Are We There Yet?” That tag comes from the title of a book I really like called, Love ’em or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay by Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye.

The book is about what the authors learned from their research into what causes talented people to stay with an organization rather than decide to leave. Guess what? Simply put, It’s the relationship they have with their direct manager, their boss. That’s what I’ve been writing about, “How to be the best Boss your people will ever have.”

The Last Eight

Here are the last eight posts in order from oldest to most recent along with a single word describing what each post is about:

Are We There Yet? – is about Patience
I See You. – is about Kindness
Where Credit is Due. – is about Humility
Not Just Another Lady. – is about Respectfulness
More than Just Me. – is about Selflessness
Don’t Drink the Poison. – is about Forgiveness
TBH. – is about Honesty
Flipflops. – is about Commitment

I mentioned in several of the posts that one of the definitions, for example “Kindness – giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement,” came from James C. Hunter’s book, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. In his book, Hunter argues that each of these characteristics is essential to the character of true leadership.

Where Did That Come From?

Hunter got his list of character traits from another source. Patience and Kindness are straightforward. Humility combines three phrases from that source, “not envious, not boastful, not proud.” Respectfulness is his way of rephrasing “not rude.” Selflessness interprets “not self-seeking,” while Forgiveness covers “not easily angered” and “keeps no record of wrongs.” Honesty is his way of rephrasing, “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Finally Commitment takes in the largest number of phrases from the source, “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.”

Do you recognize the source? This is a quote from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. You may have heard it read at weddings. First Corinthinas 13 is commonly referred to in literature and among Christians as “The Love Chapter.”

That’s the tie-in with Love ’em or Lose ’em. Now, people sometimes get squeamish when you talk about love in the workplace. But, when you read the list above, do you see anything there to be squeamish about? No? Who wouldn’t want to work for someone like that? Check out this post and see how Southwest Airlines thinks about love.

Love is like the belt that holds all the other Engager Dynamics together. It’s caring about the other person beyond what they can do for you. You care about them as a person. That’s the strongest connector I know.

Flip Flops

.
This time I’m not talking about the casual shoes for the beach. I’m talking about the term politicians use to accuse their opponents of being wishy washy on issues. “So-and-so is a flip-flopper,” they say. “Last year he held this position. Now he wants you to believe he’s on your side.” Have you ever heard that? Of course you have. As I write this post, the 2020 Presidential race is gearing up so we’re in for lots of this and more.

Can’t I Change My Mind?

Several years ago, the leader of an organization I was working with decided to change a policy that impacted how work was done for the entire organization. Not everyone was happy about it but that’s to be expected. People don’t generally embrace change with enthusiasm at first. After a few weeks of preparation for the the implementation, the leader changed his mind. He sent out a communication explaining that he had received additional information that caused him to re-think his decision. That new information led him to believe the change would not bring about what he had hoped to accomplish with the new policy, so he changed his mind.

The people in that organization were happy they didn’t have to change the way they did things. Beyond that, though, their respect for the leader grew. In that situation they didn’t see him as a “flip flopper,” they saw him as a transparent, thoughtful leader who was humble enough to acknowledge he was wrong in light of new information. The trick is not doing this very often. You don’t want to get mired in analysis paralysis. A leader most often needs to make a decision with no better than an 80% solution. That’s usually enough, though, because things change once you start down the path and you have to course correct along the way to reach the goal. But, make sure your 80% is solid information.

Commitment

What’s at stake here is confidence. People want leaders who are committed to something and stick with it. Commitment inspires employee confidence in the leader, the organization, the future. The difference between the leader who changed his mind and a flip-flopper is the perception of motive. The flip-flopping politician, for example, seems to be changing their position based on whatever direction the wind of public opinion is blowing. The people perceive it as self-serving and manipulative. The leader who changed his mind, on the other hand, is perceived as having the best interests of the organization and it’s people at heart. It’s easy to see how one inspires confidence while the other does the opposite.

In a piece of ancient poetry, the biblical psalmists asks God essentially “Who is righteous?” The answer includes the following statement, “… [the one] who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change his mind.” (Psalm 15) James C. Hunter, in his book on leadership, defines “commitment” as “sticking to your choices.” Organizations thrive when leaders make informed choices and stick to them.

TBH

To Be Honest (TBH), …, I’m not gonna lie, …, To tell you the truth, …, Honestly, …, It’s interesting how many phrases we use in every-day conversation to emphasize the truthfulness of what we’re saying. Does it sometimes make you wonder whether everything else the person says, without using one of those phrases, is true? If I say, “I’m not gonna lie,” does it mean I’ve lied before? How many times? It might just be me, but it seems like this speech pattern is becoming more popular. What does that mean about the status of truthfulness in our society?

Bobble Heads

Several years ago, I was asked by one of the division presidents to attend a president’s meeting with the CEO in his stead. All attendees were senior leaders of the different divisions of the company. It was fascinating to watch. Whenever the CEO said something, every head in the room bobbed up and down in agreement . . . except one. This guy not only didn’t “bobble head” he often shook his head and at times said, “No, that’s not a good idea.”

The first time he said that I thought everyone else in the room would get whiplash, their heads whipped around so fast to see who had dared to disagree. The tension in the room was thick. The CEO seemed a bit taken aback at first, probably because he wasn’t used to that. But, then he amazed everyone when he said, “Why do you say that?” The conversation after that was lively and productive.

In the weeks and months following that meeting, I noticed that the CEO, who was nobody’s fool, kept the naysayer close to him. Why? I believe he appreciated someone who would be honest about their view of things. In short, he trusted the honest one.

Trust

How important is trust in a relationship, any relationship? Maybe you would agree that it’s hard to imagine a relationship at all without some level of trust. Without trust, energy bleeds off an organization because it is wasted on second guessing and one upping. That wasted energy depletes productivity and synergy. On the other hand, when you have a high level of trust in an organization, there is a multiplication of productivity and synergy. Instead of the energy wasters you have freedom and ingenuity.

Honesty builds trust. Dishonesty destroys it. Just like with anything, building takes much longer than destroying. Have you every watched a video showing the demolition of a huge building in one blast? That’s what dishonesty does to trust. Three, two, one, it’s gone!

Honesty and Integrity

You will often hear people mention honesty and Integrity together, especially when talking about their personal or even organizational values. “I (we) value honesty and integrity.” I believe that’s telling, especially when you consider the second definition of “Integrity.” Integrity means

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided.

A sentence using the second definition might be, “The earthquake compromised the structural integrity of the building.” Said another way, we can make the point more directly, “The dishonesty compromised the structural integrity of the team.”

The word “Honest” means: “free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.” People who are honest are genuine about what they think and how they feel. There is no pretense. There are no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. They say what they mean, and they mean what they say. We may not like what they say but we know it’s the truth. That’s what builds trust. And, TBH, we need a lot more of that.