A few years ago I received a disturbing request from a LinkedIn connection. He asked that I reach out to the Chief Operating Officer of an extremely large lending company with whom I’m connected on LinkedIn, and offer an introduction on his behalf. He wanted me to recommend him for an important position and lie to the COO of that company about my thoughts regarding his credentials. He learned very quickly I wouldn’t be a party to his deceptive efforts.
I responded by saying lying would be a mistake and suggested he use an honest “Shutterfly and Fedex” self-introduction option I’ve recommended to others. I wrote, “If you would like ******* to consider you for a position, you should only approach ******* in a transparent and honest manner. It is an important position and he needs to trust you fully if you were to take that position.” After I responded our correspondence ceased. No reply. No apology. No words of appreciation. No big surprise.
People who know me well would never make such a request. Moreover, they recognize my integrity is neither for sale, nor a quid pro quo commodity.
Many decades ago I wrote, “Deeds, not words, more accurately reflect the true character of a man.” Those words continually direct my steps and remind me to guard my actions. We are individually responsible for our own integrity and character, and to a limited degree, our reputation. Others can damage and warp our reputations, but we alone are responsible for our behaviors. Words are extremely important, but our actions and behaviors truly reflect who we are at our core. Those actions and behaviors mold our reputations.
The fabric of the business world is sullied by operators with deservedly poor reputations. Dishonesty results in far lower profits than most dishonest people realize. Dishonesty is short-term thinking and, at best, results in a temporary benefit.
I grew up during an era when corporal punishment was commonplace at school and a teacher could manhandle his or her students. An incident occurred that resulted in my being expelled from an elementary school; requiring my family’s relocation across town so I could enroll in another school.
My first-grade teacher ducked out of the class for a few minutes. A boy sitting a few rows forward of me ran up to her desk and broke all the teacher’s pencils. When she returned and discovered the shattered wood and graphite littering her desk she demanded to know who perpetrated the crime. That horrid little boy up front turned and pointed to me. The next thing I knew she was shaking me and pinching my shoulders very hard. I was too young to appreciate Marquess of Queensberry rules of fair play or the willingness to passively endure the pain and ridicule being inflicted upon me by my teacher. I went on the attack and drew both sets of fingernails across each side of her face. I recall seeing blood. The principle saw red and my fellow first graders never saw me in that school again.
That experience seared within me a repulsion for being falsely accused and fueled a sincere desire to be honest, transparent, and reliable. I didn’t want to be like that little boy who broke the teacher’s pencils. His actions created havoc and negatively affected many people. As time passes my resolve to do my level best has grown, in all things; to remain faithful to what is just and right, truthful and upstanding, ethical and moral. Moreover, I have grown fiercely protective of my reputation and honor.
My activities as an agent of change on behalf of business owners occasionally results in fierce pushback by staff members. Employees will often feel threatened in times of change, especially those who perceive change as a threat to their employment or position of power; or in the case of thieves, their freedom. Some individuals will go on the attack as a form of defense. Although I am no stranger to pushback, sometimes people cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
Over the years I’ve encountered a few individuals who’ve challenged my character, for their own narcissistic purposes. On a couple of occasions I’ve offered to treat slandering parties to polygraph examinations, at my expense, when they’ve employed dishonest accusatory words about me for their own self-serving purposes. On two occasions I’ve invited individuals to continue slandering me, so they would have the opportunity to join me in a court of law. Those invitations were conveyed with all due seriousness and resolve. Nobody has ever taken me up on either offer and no further actions were required. In the context of business, reputation holds incredible value.
A dedication to what is true and correct has resulted in opportunities I could never have enjoyed if I’d stretched the truth here, told a lie there, cheated a business acquaintance, robbed a customer, or misappropriated something that wasn’t mine. Business owners and others would never have entrusted me with their assets, their homes, or their companies if my honesty was in question. It’s a matter of trust.
I’ve always told my wife and children that trust is a sacred personal commodity that should never be marginalized in any manner. I’ve shared consistently that trust, once violated, can never be fully regained. Once a trust is broken, it’s forever tarnished. Therefore, it is both sacred and vital in any relationship. Trust is as important in business relationships, as it is in marriage and other personal relationships.
A few years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful man named Freddy. The three of us were involved in a business venture that required many high-level meetings with potential investors. Millions of dollars were at stake. We entered each meeting with a cornucopia of facts and other important information.
Freddy was the lead presenter at each of these meetings. Our facts were true and accurate. Our presentations were 100% on the level. Investors asked many questions in those meetings and my answers were always truthful. The delight I had in working with Freddy on the venture cannot be measured. With millions of dollars at stake, Freddy had many opportunities to fudge the facts to ensure those dollars would flow into our coffers. However, on every occasion Freddy chose to take the highroad and to do what was right, by only providing truthful information.
Yes, we did miss opportunities that could have lined our pockets with huge dividends. To this day I know both Freddy and I can look one another in the eye and honestly state that we did the right thing. It was an overwhelming pleasure to have worked with an individual of such integrity. I hope, too, that I will always conduct my affairs with the integrity displayed by my friend Freddy Mangum.
I feel bad for the young man who wanted me to lie, so he would have a chance for a trusted position of employment. It is truly sad to know that if he doesn’t change his ways he will never enjoy the blessings that come with honesty, integrity, and a valued reputation. I am also saddened by the knowledge that many business people honestly believe they are making good decisions when they are not honest with their staff, their investors, or their clients.
The Jim Carrey movie, “Liar Liar” demonstrated just how horrible life can be when dishonesty guides a person’s decisions and actions. The best place and time to begin walking a straight path of truth and honesty is here and now. I heartily encourage every single person reading this article to consistently make every personal and business decision under the umbrella of truth and honesty. It will serve you well. Like broken pencils or shattered eggs, a shattered trust can never enjoy full reconstruction.
Handshake photo courtesy of Flazingo Photos
Pencil photo courtesy of e-Magic
Polygraph photo courtesy of SpiralStares
Broken egg photo courtesy of Nick Wheeler
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