Honestly, we can do better.
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
I was listening to the radio this morning as I took my son to school; they were in the middle of those silly quizzes/survey questions and accepting calls from listeners. I have no idea what the question was but the callers kept guessing, “is it stealing?”
During the breaks, the two radio hosts were talking about the high number of these guesses and, to my dismay, they ended up discussing how “everyone did it” and that shoplifting various little things wasn’t that big of a deal. One of the hosts even commented that this type of behavior was “not like robbing an actual person…”
Have we gone so far down the gutter that we feel it’s more important to be popular and cool than it is to be honest? I was disgusted and you know darn well I will be calling the station manager about it.
Anyway, listening to these idiots on the radio led to a lecture to my son, who had lots of questions. It occurred to me as I drove home that my answers were not so different than what I always tell leaders:
Always be honest.
You may be of the mind that there is a time and place to lie but I call BS.
We owe people honesty. This doesn’t mean we have to be cruel nor does it mean we have to placate. Good leaders work hard to develop strong communication skills which allow them to confront difficult situations with honesty and forthrightness. Good leaders are open and truthful when they “define reality” for their teams so realistic expectations and outcomes can be understood and realized.
Do what is right and just, not what is popular.
You may think the two ignoramus’ in the story above were “staying relevant” to their audience and that this was a good business move. Again, I call BS.
It is never right to suggest that stealing from others, whether it be a corporation or an individual, is right. I don’t care if it’s a pack of gum or a BMW…stealing is wrong. Good leaders demonstrate integrity and trustworthiness by modeling ethical behaviors, by calling out those who don’t, and by rewarding those who do. Moreover, good leaders communicate the “why” when unpopular decisions need to be made to ensure their teams clearly understand the difference between popular (easy) and right.
Don’t accept less than good.
You may think some people aren’t capable of making better decisions or performing at a high behavioral standard. You may even accept excuses like the way they were raised, the difficulties they face, etc. I call BS!
We are all fully capable of making good, moral and just decisions. We are all fully capable of meeting reasonable behavioral standards. Good leaders recognize that when it comes to behavior, these are choices to be made. Good leaders know something my mom always told me: “no one EVER rises to low expectations” – so they set their behavioral standards at good or better and refuse to accept anything less.
I need to call the radio station now so I’ll leave you with this:
I know it’s hard to raise kids to be responsible, independent, honest and helpful adults. I struggle every day and often want to lean towards the easy route. I get tired and I’m tempted to allow, heaven forbid, the media to babysit for awhile.
My FroYo shoppe caters to parents, young adults and children and, unfortunately, I see so many of them openly “steal” from me; I hear them say things like “it’s only some chocolate chips” or “it’s not like these things cost a lot of money.” I have to confront them and tell them that 20 cents is no different than $20 if it wasn’t theirs in the first place.
I employ about twenty young adults all under the age of 18 and, unfortunately, I am reminded daily that some parents may not have taught, modeled or encouraged their children to always be honest and to always offer hard work.
But as leaders, I think we all have to do these things – we all have to mentor, coach and encourage honesty. But boy, it sure is getting harder and harder to do so because we are getting adults who have already formed various “dishonest” habits.
We can do better, folks; we must do better!
My challenge to you is this: if you have a young person in your life, make plans to sit down with him/her, write a letter, make a phone call…whatever…and talk about honesty. Offer examples, tell stories, etc.
Then, mark your calendar and do it again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and so on. You will never be short of stories or examples so there will always be something to talk about. Bring these conversations to mealtime, turn off the radio or music and discuss them during your commute. Pause the movie or TV Show when you see something dishonest and explain your thoughts on it. Offer a great story about integrity and truthfulness when you tuck your little one in at night.