By Gavin Moffat
Who provides you with a reality check?
Do you have someone around you that is blunt, doesn’t pull punches and asks you the questions that keep you honest? If you’re a manager with direct reports or an MD or CEO, do your have a peer-to-peer or 360 degree review and feedback process?
If you don’t have these little rays of honesty then, like many of us, you may spend some time riding the rollercoaster of misguided self-belief, and an honest reality check could be an excellent addition to your day. Healthy feedback keeps us focused on measurable success, and from straying into the path of believing only the positive stuff.
My wife has been a judge on a number of different awards, and has noticed that a significant percentage of entrants are either trying to pull a fast one with their entries by exaggerating what they do or have done, or are overly enamored with the size of their “success”. Part of the problem is that even though they stretch credulity to the max, they still have complete faith that they will be believed. Is it self-delusion or just the norm in business these days?
Personally, I find it off-putting to deal with people or companies that stretch the truth, even a little. Don’t fool yourself; there’s no such thing as ‘a little white lie’; such businesses may as well be branded liars, because that’s what they’re doing.
Whether it’s advertising that claims to be the best, quickest, fastest or cheapest without proof to back this up; a magazine telling you that their circulation is X (but they are not audited); or a carmaker telling you that they sell more vehicles than brand Z (but their sales figures are not available for public consumption)… As Lou Reed said, they’re taking a “walk on the wild side” with the truth.
How often have you heard a story that rings a bell because you are fairly sure that you were there at the time, but you’re feeling a bit fuzzy because the story seems to have morphed into something else? Tall stories. Exaggerations. Hyperbole. Embellishment. Amplification. Boasting.
No one trusts someone that they can’t trust. If you (or your staff) tend towards exaggeration or overstating facts and figures, or are prone to making the fish in your stories – this big – then you face any number of challenges in terms of maintaining credibility and future believability.
We are living in a time where fact checking is an industry. There is a website where teachers can log on, post copies of their students’ work and check them against tens of thousands of other works, all in an attempt to keep plagiarism in check. We can revisit what you said 10 years ago, because Google does not forget.
Social media has meant that even the slightest attempt to “pull the wool” over the eyes of others can be exposed on a very public stage – and you will be judged harshly. Ask brands like BP and Cadbury, who have treated their public with just a degree of disdain and reaped the consequences through share price knocks and global boycotts of their products.
Instead of shying away from those that are direct, honest, blunt or interested in providing constructive feedback – embrace them. They probably have a great deal of value to offer you, and may save you from believing that you are a legend in your own lunchtime, which is, incidentally, a great thing.