Honesty … such a simple, and occassionally lonely, word

At the risk of going all Billy Joel on you ...

I came across a couple items a few days apart and, on the surface, they aren’t really related at all … one was talking about a wireless carrier putting limits on its subscribers’ unlimited usage plans and another one was about how employers and leaders can find out if employees and management share the same goals and vision.

I found the interview with Steve Stoute very interesting – all these buzzwords that one hears tossed around, like “vision” and “goals” and “communication” and such are just empty words unless the character of the individuals behind those words can give those words real meaning, real flesh and blood results, both in the business culture and at the bottom line.  He says, among other things:

Doing what you say is a core value. You can’t have people inside a company who are saying things but have no intention of doing what they say. They might have good intentions when it leaves their mouth, but that’s exactly where it ends. You have to find those people immediately, because those people hurt a growing organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us who have been around the business world for more than, oh, say, 38 days, have come to recognize there’s power in the words people use – both words of employee and employer, management and staff … those employers/managers whose actions match their words are more likely to have employees who buy into the vision and employees / staff whose actions match their words typically find their prospects grow along with the mutual trust that gets created when the members of a group are honest with each other.

One other point he made – his final point in the interview – is the very foundation of everything else he discussed (the goals, the vision, the whatever) and it came to this:

I’m looking to hire people who are honest with themselves. If you’re honest with yourself, we could work together. We can adjust on the go, we can call an audible at the line of scrimmage, because you’re honest with yourself. But if you’re not honest with yourself, you’re always trying to not let me find out something, or you’re trying to not let yourself find out something. You don’t want to find out from somebody else something about yourself that you don’t already know. I think that’s a very important attribute of successful people — they are honest with themselves.

I mean … this seems so basic.  Those who are honest with themselves succeed … and those who aren’t … don’t.*

*It reminds me of that line from Talking Heads’ song Life During Wartime - “I’ve changed my hairstyle sooooooo many times now … I don’t know what I look like.”  I’ve often thought folks who are not honest with themselves are more than a bit like that – after a while the lies make them unrecognizable to even themselves.

This brings me to the story about the mobile wireless carrier who put limits on its’ unlimited data plan.  Now, technically, this company is not limiting certain high volume users, just “throttling back” their speeds, which effectively limits their phones to calls and text messages.  Or, as one user observed:

The company made no promises that “unlimited” data would always be coupled with high speeds, he notes. “They just guaranteed the highway. They didn’t guarantee the speed limit.”

Fair enough.  We live in a post “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” society, so, I guess, in a way, many customers have become immune to such double-thought and spin.  Or, to put it another way, most consumers expect that some companies are looking to stick it to them*.

*Now is probably a good time to mention that I am not one of this wireless company’s customers, so, this is not an “angry customer rant.”

However, when it comes to the idea of honesty, while this carrier may be well within their technical rights to treat their customers in this manner (and, one would not be too far off to think this treatment is part of a strategy to move customers away from the unlimited use plans), I have to question the cost of moving away from the spirit of their plan.  Again, while this may technically be above board, it feels dishonest.  (I have yet to see a commercial where the handsome actor or the pretty actress declares “Use our unlimited data plan, but, if you use too much we will cripple your phone for the rest of the billing cycle!” [Smiles.]  At least that would be honest.)

All of this got me to wondering – I bet there are leaders and upper-level management at this company who ask their employees and middle management to buy into their goals and values.  They probably ask their employees to communicate.  They likely talk about vision.  Yet, as Steve Stoute observed, doing what you say is a core value.

Deception makes for a poor core value.  It likely inhibits long-term health.  Honesty is simple.  It is also the easiest thing to remember and requires no spin.

What do you consider your company’s core value?

Tim Burnell

About Tim Burnell

Tim Burnell, principal owner of Complete Medical Lists, has been helping clients reach their targeted markets through direct channels for over 20 years. He believes offering high quality data and unsurpassed service are the keys to Complete Medical’s success. He also believes all his CDs should be alphabetized by artist and then sorted by release date. Except for the Beatle CDs. They get sorted before all others.
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