How many times have you walked away from a meeting asking yourself, “What in the world 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.
That’s the same with the Presidential Debates – not just this year, but every year. It seems to be a theatrical display to persuade the emotions of American voters – so where is the honesty in all this? Setting all political issues aside, while watching the debates, you see both candidates dodge questions, downplay the issues, and interrupt the moderator or each other. They use ambiguous figures, aggressively tear each other apart, go back on their word, and brag about and embellish their past accomplishments. With all these fallacies, how do we know who to trust? We have to rely on fact checkers for the truth! Who will be the best leader for our country? Or are they both performing a rhetorical tap dance around our Nation’s troubles?
That goes for our internal communications as well, 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 hide behind laptops, 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 – just like our political leaders- 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 the Presidential Debate “fact checkers” or a Bernie Madoff lie, but they still impose a significant risk.
Be realistic! Be willing to accept unpleasant answers when asking yourself… Am I willing to take responsibility for failures not portraying honest communication? Do I actively convey the truth when offering feedback? DARE to be honest and authentic in ALL that you do. Make a difference in your day-to-day life by influencing and encouraging the people around you to do the same. Make your word good, and be as good as your word!