You Can Always Trust a Dishonest Man to be Dishonest

How many times have you walked away from a meeting asking yourself, “What the hell did he just say?” Recently, I observed a CEO address a conference as a keynote speaker. He delivered a truly insipid, uninspiring presentation, rife with buzzwords, euphemisms, and clichés. Yet somehow, his performance was rewarded by a standing ovation, initiated and encouraged by a front row filled with his loyal staff.

In our internal communications, which take place in the offices and conference rooms where the real, day-to-day work of business gets done, we might be expected to be far more authentic. In this environment, however, the situation isn’t much better. In reality, our meetings are often robotic stage plays scripted from arbitrary bullet-point agendas, delivered with little energy, and almost evasive in their lack of eye-to-eye contact. We flood our audiences with information, bombard them with metrics, bar graphs and pie charts, and PowerPoint slides by the hundreds. Our internal reports and memoranda, even our emails, are obscured by euphemisms, an alphabet soup of acronyms, empty catchphrases and meaningless cliché. ” We “downsize,” “right size,” “outplace,” and make “workforce adjustments,” but we don’t fire anybody anymore. We “collaborate” and “interface” with co-workers, but rarely have a simple, honest conversation with them.

We make excuses for not really connecting with people every single day. I’ve got calls to make, emails to write, and meetings to attend. We sugarcoat, deceive, twist and spin the truth, never thoroughly thinking of the consequences it may have on our organization. Those routine white lies, that one tries so hard to justify, might not hit the news like a Bernie Madoff lie, but they still impose a significant risk.

Be realistic! Ask yourself, and be willing to accept unpleasant answers… Am I willing to take responsibility for our failures not portraying honest communication? Do I actively convey the truth when offering feedback?