In the end the truth really will set you free
By Tom Berliner For The Beacon-News July 8, 2012 12:56AM
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:04AM
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the message was lost. For want of a message, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Truthfulness is one such nail. The older I get, the more I see the foolishness of not telling the truth, either by commission (willfully providing a lie) or omission (leaving out important information). You know what? The truth eventually comes out. Trading a minor consequence now for a more major penalty later is just not worth the exchange.
If you are in a leadership role, or expecting that to be the case in the future, there are few better ways to cut the legs out from under you than not telling the truth. All it takes is one lie for contamination to have a foothold. More than one welcomes an epidemic.
Recently, I was shocked to find out that someone on my team had lied to me. The silly thing was that the topic was minor. It had to do with where someone was at a particular point in time. Anyhow, that silly lie, and the fact that this person did not own up to it, put something beyond a bad taste in my mouth. I was now wondering what else was skewed in our relationship…or his with others. I just didn’t have to go there and wouldn’t have done so except for our not being able to put it behind us.
Beyond “Don’t lie,” what’s the message? Simple. If you begin taking the wrong road about the truth, even if you trudge down it for a while, go back and revise what you have done. Apologize for whatever was originally communicated incorrectly. If those impacted need more processing, give them time to do it. If they need to talk more with you about it, find time to do so. What you want is to deal with it, not shove it under the rug.
Two things are important. First, enough is enough. At some point in time, everyone has to move on. If you deal with the lie and your audience says that it has dealt with it, then forgiveness means leaving it behind. Constant rehashing prevents the scab from healing. That goes for you and for those involved.
Second, don’t repeat the same mistake. My Dad used to say “Dog bites man. Shame on dog. Dog bites man twice. Shame on man.” You only get one do over…depending on the severity of the untruth. If you do something clearly willful and undoubtedly egregious, there are likely to be no second chances.
What happens when you are the victim or when it happens in your team? If the person making the lie comes forward of his or her own doing, not much processing is necessary. Assuming that it wasn’t an over-the-top falsehood, clear the air quickly and move on. If the person does not come forward, you take charge and bring it up. However, make certain you have the facts and, very importantly, remain open to alternate explanations. If that gets it back on the right track, then store the incident away. If not, then you have some serious thinking to do about what kind of interaction you want with this individual, if any at all.
Lying isn’t the worst thing one can do. But don’t dismiss it because it could be symptomatic of more serious behavioral issues. If there is anything that I can do to support or encourage you, I would be delighted to assist in your success. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 847-628-1520.
Tom Berliner is dean of the School of Leadership and Business at Judson University in Elgin.