Monday, April 27, 2009

“Try Honesty”

Sometimes the funniest things trick a great memory. This weekend at Coachella it was when the Billy Talent band played their popular song “Try Honesty.”

In 1991, I made a significant career transition moving from middle management in Operations and Manufacturing to Supply Chain Management. I was fortunate enough for the senior executive to recognize that I would likely need guidance to be successful and he asked Ron to be my mentor during the transition. Ron was recognized within the industry as an expert and a developer of talent.

The manufacturing world I was coming from was tough, aggressive, long hours, competitive, cut throat and entrenched in heavy Theory X. They trained me for the previous ten years to function in that world, so I assumed all organizations worked the same way. I can remember Ron’s first lesson to me in successful supplier relationships. We had one situation where we needed a supplier to implement a change that would cost them a little money, and we were not in a position to pay for it right then. Ron and I were brainstorming how we were going to accomplish the task at hand. Ron let me toss out idea after idea and finally made this suggestion, “why don’t we tell them the truth?” That had not crossed my mind.

The supplier responded very positively to our request and I learned a valuable lesson I’ve used since. Even in the worse cases, always be honest.

We have all seen careers tumble due to lack of stating the truth, but have you experienced careers accelerate due someone’s courage to tell the truth?


Amer Raja said...

Prostitues and pimps earns money. Big money. Professionalism demands integrity and has to wait, many time and particularly in beginning, till find the right person/s or association/s. In the long run only honesty and truth matters. Values & standards are things adhered by practioner not anything imposed. Never the less, in short run and corrupt environments truth & honesty are difficult to practise and not that rewarding.
Nice thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

Tom Hawes said...


Honesty, as a default? That sure sounds simple but we (I) often have trouble with being "simple." I have noticed that it is especially hard for me to say "I don't know" in response to a question. My pride and professional competence incline me to always want to have an answer. What would it look like if I didn't know something?? Well, it would look like I was being honest.

My experience is that I have grown tremendously when I was willing to be honest. (Of course, always saying "I don't know" would likely mean that I was performing poorly in the job.) The interesting thing is that honesty, modestly expressed, often provides an opening for others to talk about their uncertainties. Their defensive guards go down as they observe that mine have gone done. Then we can really start to make progress together.

There is an old Billy Joel song called "Honesty." It's about relationships but it could easily be adapted for business topics. It starts with these words.

If you search for tenderness
it isn't hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

I wrote about this topic in context of competitive intelligence in the article "The Right Answer to the Trap Question" ( ).

John Jurkiewicz said...

Very refreshing. No pie charts, histograms or comparisons graphs. Just plain old fashion honesty.

I agree with you whole heartedly. Before I agree to work with someone as their coach we both eat from the little bowel of honesty. If they are not prepared to take an honest look at themselves and accept some honest insite in return, then we don't work together. Fifty percent stay and fifty percent leave. The ones that stay have told me the most important thing they learned was to take a hard look at themselves and accept that they have been holding themselves back.

Likewise, I would not enjoy the sucess I enjoy if I hadnt been open to peoples honest evaluation of where I needed to improve.

The best thing about being honest with yoursefl and others is that it costs nothing.

Thank you for sharing this.

RO said...

Thanks. I remember him always saying that.

Remi Cote said...

One example where being honest might not pay at all: If your boss does not want to be honest, you need to follow his lead and tell what he wants you to tell outside of his team. Not doing so will definitely impact your career!

Esther said...

Great discussion topic! Related to honesty is authenticity, something very important to me in all of my relationships -- business, as well as personal.
Just today, I listened to one of my favorite radio shows -- The Age of Persuasion -- a marketing show. The topic was authenticity in marketing, but it relates to everything we do. I pick up when someone is inauthentic, and it leaves me not wanting to relate to them. How can someone trust us if they sense we're not being authentic or honest? I wouldn't!
Here's a link to the show online: It's the first episode on the page. Enjoy!


Tom said...

Everyone should have that "Ah Ha" moment.

Tom said...


Anyone who has constructed a "Strategic Partnership" knows they can only be built on Trust.


Pierre Dupras said...

How much truth can you handle?

Fortunately, there are still businesses that transact in good faith and allow inconvenient truths to be discussed. These businesses have strong leaders that can communicate their notion of how valuable the truth can really be. Within these organizations, courage to tell the truth is not unusual and does not warrant special although there may be many great examples out there for you, the likelyhood of their being communicated is small.

On a philosphical note:

Life in our current society is grounded in objectives. Our society is based on useful truths that can help us accomplish our goals. Those truths that prevent us from accomplishing our goals are quickly smothered. We've seen governments do this with alarming success in both democratic and non-democratic societies. We must therefore put a premium on selecting leaders that can create sustainable objectives.

To understand the tradition, let's look at the Miranda warnings. They state that, "everything you say can and will be held against you in the court of law." Doesn't that promote hiding inconvenient truths? What if it read, "everything you say can and will be used to HELP YOU." How would our society be different?

I would enjoy seeing a Universal Declaration of Truth. Something like, "Everyone is equal in their right to truth. Everyone has the undeniable right to tell the truth. Everyone has the undeniable right to be provided with the truth. The truth will benefit and be used to ensure the well being of all people."

Let's not forget that Privacy is only useful in a society where the truth can hurt you. Falsehoods are only beneficial when we choose to live in the circus world of Barnum & Bailey, whose motto was, "Another sucker is born every minute."

Let's choose to live in a world of sustainable cooperation.



Miriam Goldsmith said...

Great topic! Authenticity is the deepest expression of honesty. I also think it's so important as in the example that John gave and like so many other situations where we feel compelled to not tell the truth or to divulge only part of a truth is to enter into an inquiry that asks, "What am I afraid will happen if I am honest? That one question can begin a process where people start examining their own fears and potentially their own vulnerability, their need to control outcomes etc....These kinds of conversations with oneself can be expanded into conversations among different groups within the organizations that poet, David Whyte calls "courageous conversations" - ones that we don't WANT to have but that we NEED to have to be most authentic with ourselves and each other.

Marilynn Semonick said...

At the suggestion of a colleague, I just joined this group a couple days ago, and must share how impressed I am with this conversation. Actually, I'm new to the entire social networking scene, and was resistant as long as I could have been! After thirty years in business, all this seems so time consuming. However, please let me thank all who have contributed to this dialogue as refreshing and, to use Miriam's word "authentic."

Anna DeBattiste said...

This is indeed a great topic! One of my favorite communication models to teach is Peter Senge's concept of "left hand column". These are all the thoughts and feelings you didn't express during a conversation because you felt threatened or uncomfortable. (The term comes from an exercise in which you analyze lost opportunities by writing what was actually said in the right hand column, and what you didn't say in the left hand column.) Often in looking back you discover that if you'd had the courage to say what you were thinking and feeling, it would have had a positive impact on the conversation and/or the relationship. I've found the concept incredibly powerful in getting people to think about improving the quality of their dialogue and coming across with authenticity. It is also useful for getting teams to generate more creative ideas, and for getting workers to promote safety in the workplace.

Miriam Goldsmith said...

Love that! Thank you Anna!

Kevin Randall said...


It is good to see a post from time to time that points out that people tend to get away from the qualities that people respect the most.

Interestingly enough, I have an opportunity to be honest with you. I'm hoping that seeing, taking the time to read and appreciate your post can also serve as an introduction. I lead the Technical and Engineering Search Division for TriStaff, in San Diego. I am embedded with several Control Systems/Electrical and UAV Flight Systems searches for other Aerospace companies and would like to know if I can also be of service to Boeing in a similar headhunting capacity. If you work with suppliers within my specialty, what can I do to get on board as a vendor/supplier?

Any information would be greatly appreciated, and that is the truth.

Best Regards,

Kevin Randall

Mark Herbert said...

Hmm. Better be careful. Soon we may let integrity, trust, and accountability seep into our relationships. Where would we be then.......

JoAnn Bedell said...

I love that! If we all told the truth, there would be so much less stress and the world would be a better place!

Ada Gonzalez, Ph.D. said...

Great and "thorny" topic! Courage to tell the truth is not as common as we would like to see! I find that many times the hidden thought behind not telling the truth is trying to "please" someone, and fear of being misunderstood. For me, when I'm open to take the risk of opening an honest dialogue, where I'm willing to tell my truth, but also to listen to the perspective of others, great things can happen.

A few years back I worked with a client in a leadership position that was afraid to tell the truth to her direct reports for fear of "crushing" them, or being "disliked" by them. In the process of coaching, she was able to "tell the truth" but with tact and an empowering spirit. The results both for her career and her department were impressive.

And yes, authenticity, trust, and accountability go very close with truth. . . Just remember that some times what seems like the "truth" for you, could be totally different for someone else. That is why, for me, telling the truth needs to be done in dialogue.

Esther Kohn-Bentley said...

That's the beauty of being in relationship -- it calls on our higher selves to stretch, to be courageous, to be kind, to be honest, to be our true selves (authentic), as scary as that might sometimes be!

Rajat Kapur said...

I agree with this post 100%. The only thing I would add is "candor" - honesty and candor are in my eyes actually a great (but possibly diminishing) aspect of GE's culture.

Facing into the truth, whether its with your customers, suppliers, bosses, reports, or peers, over time tends to deepen relationships, increase trust, and improve business in the long run.

However, when business is rough (like now), these things tend to go out the window... and people get defensive and play the old fashioned game of CYA. That's a sad truth.

Eric Edwin said...

I must admit that I personally have prospered by telling the truth. I have been identified (in my past) as the guy who would tell a new mother that she had given birth to an 'ugly baby', although I take offense to that as I am a lot more caring than the statement implies.

One personal story of success for me is summarized as follows. I was in line for a potential consulting contract with a manufacturing company that has been in business for over a century. The Sr. VP of Operations came up through the ranks and was a very brash individual. After going through an upfront sales pitch, he stopped me and asked if the methods I was proposing would ever permit the removal of some expensive inspection equipment. I responded that there was no way, in my opinion, that he could ever remove it due to the potential liability. He asked why I answered that way and my response was "Because I did not want to lie to you."

He had been told by 15 other consultancies in the past just the opposite of what I told him. That honesty got me the contract that lasted for 3 years, and him as a business reference (he stated early on that he HATES consultants).

I believe that honesty is the best policy and can do wonders for a relationship - whether it is business or personal in nature. After all, wouldn't you want to be told the truth?

Diana Volovelskay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leslie Kohler said...

What a great discussion to a topic that should seem so simple, but one that often gets lost in today's competitive world. And a topic that is also so applicable to our everyday lives. Thank you. Some wise words to live and work by!

Suzanne Adele said...

To my mind, it all comes down to Integrity and honest, open and candid communication. If you have Integrity, (defined as the consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome) the rest will follow!

Sreejith said...

How I wish !

In these times of cut throat competition, being truthful doesn't often elicit anything more than curiosity :)

If the truth doesn't rub ur boss/management the wrong way, go ahead ! Or else, discretion pls :)

Quite a cynical post. I admit.

Cheers !

Stephen Miller said...

John, I could not agree with you more, my most successful business relationships have all been based on honesty, from which you build up trust, respect and commitment, a true partnership. It is a shame that more people do not practice this even though a lot of them talk the talk.

Prashant Bhekare said...

Honesty equals good sleep if you value that.

Sal (JT) Tuzzo said...

I always told my children, "To thy own self be true"

I find it refreshing to read these comments.

Once you stop telling yourself the truth you start to believe the fantasy world you created. At that point you really need a wakeup call.

With all the deception in marketing and sales today, the truth should be the best seller. It is for me.

Kyle Smith said...

Much like the "transparency" and "responsibility" the new administration was SUPPOSED to bring to government. Instead we have Chicagoland politics as usual.

DeLynn Todaro said...

Thank you for sharing. I agree, integrity is everything!!!

Fred Szibdat said...

Well John,

That's a good story and live lesson. We get them all the time. Though it may sound selfish, I think about myself in those cases. And I say, how will I look myself in the face tomorrow when I shave.

I used to do a lot of client service at PwC, and I rarely gave clients what they wanted to hear. Instead, I gave them what they needed to hear. Then founds way to address the issues. Those clients, really respected me for it, and I got great feedback, and a few small bonuses.

But.... I always would think, if I was in their shoes, what would I want. And it was always compasionate honesty.

Robert Beecher said...

Again, two threads. for personal development, I'm not as aggressive at pushing the boundaries as is John...I get plenty of alternate reality and alternate culture and views of culture(s) from my HS and college aged kids. But as leaders we have an organizational and mission focus. Anything that does not support the mission is a distraction from it. Diversity is not the mission....therefore it must be made to support the enterprise or be ignored.

It is exactly the diversity for diversity's sake focus on everyones differences (whether tolerated or not) that breeds self segregation and risks the success of team building and a unifying organizational culture, whether in a small business, a university, or a nation. Why don't we have unity training focused on how we are all alike and how we can focus on common objectives? Outside of the workforce, we do exactly that by choosing the organizations to which we will belong and to whom we will provide support - based on a shared sense of mission. In the business community, leaders provide the mission that is the organizational central focus. Anything that is outside the mission, and anything that does not support the mission, is a clanging gong that is a distraction. Only to the extent that diversity (whether by intellectual frames or by special/protected category) can enhance the mission should it be included as appropriate to the organization.

We could have an interesting dialog about what that might look like. perhaps it means things that if applied consistently are antithetical to the intent of diversity respecting and working within cultural norms both domestically and internationally (whether part of a non-profit or for profit organaiztion). Think about what "tolerance" means from the other side of the relationship. John, maybe there's the seed of another question here.

There is a clear directionality to the national motto E Pluribus Unum. This is not a call to focusing on and enhancing differences. I do not celebrate diversity, I pray for unity.

Patricia Roberts said...

Hi John,

It has been my job, for the past 30+ years, to tell the truth to my employers. As a market research and strategic planning professional, telling senior leadership the truth is pretty much what I get paid to do. Sometimes it has accelerated my career, and sometimes they shoot the messenger. IMO, it depends on the character, courage, and business acumen of the person you are telling the truth to. In one instance, I told the top guy not to launch a new product until more tweaking was done - the early results showed flaws in the product configuration and almost guaranteed a bumpy debut. He said, and I will never forget this, "I don't believe you." I asked: "Do you not believe the data, or do you just not believe my interpretation and analysis?" He said both. The product launched, it bombed, and fixing it turned out to be the most costly live test I ever saw. However, my boss, who reported to the top guy, respected my skills, analysis, and willingness to take the risk and tell the truth. He supported me and we did great things together. Other instances of speaking truth to power have not turned out so well. So I would have to say it's about half and half. Even so, one always has to tell the truth, particularly in the role of advisor, as market research professionals are.

Great question, John. I hope to read lots of positive posts!



Miriam Goldsmith said...

What a great discussion, John. Such wonderful contributions. Thanks for getting it started!


Troy Charlton said...

Honesty...the quality, condition, or characteristic of being fair, truthful, and morally upright. Nothing wrong with that!

Cynthia Guy said...

Boy, I must be really out of it. Honesty isn't a novel idea for me. That's one of the very first conversations we have with potential clients. Due to some of the work we do, our reporting can include very negative information. We attempt to deliver it as diplomatically as possible. We've lost business over it because a few clients only want to hear about roses and sunshine. On the flip side, clients frequently state they depend on our honesty.

While I'd love to have answers for every question asked, alas, I do not. It stings my ego to admit it, but that sting is easier to handle than the potential fall-out of a bad or wrong answer.

Maybe next Tuesday, I'll have all of the answers.

Miriam Goldsmith said...

What great modeling it is to be able to say "I don't know". This is actually an admittance of strength, not weakness. I would much prefer NOT to have all the answers and am confident I never will. Creativity is sparked from being in the sphere of the unknown. When we're in that sphere together, brilliance happens, possibility is everywhere! Real conversation and dialogue can truly begin! .

Dr. David Hancock, D.M. said...

Mark raises an interesting caveat... integrity does flow from honesty... and if your integrity shows in your corporate communication it will yield and help to re-build organizational trust... this trust will improve teamwork and productivity in the organizational eventually filtering down to the bottom line, profitability... so I guess we can say that honesty is profitable!

Mark Herbert said...

Dr. Hancock-
I can't tell you whether or not honesty leads directly to profitability, but I can tell you it is a crucial element of engagement. The latest studies show that not only does true engagement lead to profitability, it leads to significant improvement is just about every KPI an organization would want to track!
BlessingWhite has done some seminal research and I have a couple of different pieces on my website that track the relationship and correlation.

Barbara Clark said...

In answer to your question: "We have all seen careers tumble due to lack of stating the truth, but have you experienced careers accelerate due someone’s courage to tell the truth?" Unfortunately I have to say no, I've seen the exact opposite occur.

One can only hope that the current economic situation will act as a wake up call and business will finely realize and actively promote honesty and good relationship building.

Ashutosh Agrawal said...

An interesting case in point. From my experience being honest works in more than one way. Being honest makes one credible and trustworthy in eyes of others. Also the other person lowers his gurad and becomes more willing to listen. However, I still doubt that 'being honest' can be used as a blanket approach (in tough negotiations, where honesty can work against one) .

But as you said, it takes courage to tell the truth and bare yourself.

Sal said...

Barbara, careers still stumble today when you disagree with your group behavior of your manager that has the right to hire/fire etc.

This has been happening from the earliest recorded history about 700BC and rumored from 1400BC. At least we are not beheaded today, just our livelihood is jeopardized for a period of time from poor references and as one put it the BOZO effect.

The current business model in the USA is not functioning around truth at this time. That is why we are in the economic state we are in.

An interesting observation that I have discovered while building my startup business model is that of the 10 million or so companies in the USA and many more outside the USA, very few have a code of conduct outlining their culture and the way business in conducted. Putting this in writing holds them accountable by default.

A short time after one of the news channels made a big deal of a elementary student turning in a small amount of cash he found on the street. In my household, honesty was not something rewarded it was and still is expected to be part of our culture and value system.

We now have to rebuild business integrity with ethical, honest and moral behavior as part of the new model that is accountable.

Because of the bad apples like Madoff etc. actions, many of us now have to prove our honesty in business. For those that have integrity and honesty, it is business as usual, for those that do not have, well the language would be inappropriate to mention here. Public purchasing and opinion is still a very powerful leverage for change as long as we have the freedom of expression.

Dr. David Hancock, D.M. said...

Hello Mark,

My comment was a bit of simplistic logic and rather "tongue in cheek"... what I can speak to with some authority is organizational trust, which I'm sure is also an important element of engagement. My research shows a distinct parallel between organizational trust and affective organizational commitment... here again I would postulate a significant link to engagement. While trust can be measured it is still considered a "soft" organizational attribute in many circles so, as yet, there is no direct link to profitability that I'm aware of, however the results of increased trust certainly seem to go there... interesting isn't it?

Joe Lynn said...

Dr. David Hancock, D.M.

Douglas Story said...

There is truth and then there is TRUTH. I've seen as many careers go down the tube telling the TRUTH as I have seen going up in flames via a LIE. The talent in telling the truth is how it is delivered. Many believe that just delivering the truth will make them a hero... however if not done in the appropriate manner it will usually be the petard by which their head will eventually be hoisted upon. Not sure if I have ever seen anyone climb the ladder using the "pure truth" philosophy but I have seen individuals climb the ladder if they can play in the world of nice and gray.

Alison Smith said...

My expertise has never been in the negotiation of leverage and more commodity based categories where I have seen colleagues with a harder approach succeed. However I was once told by an unsuccesful supplier (so I don't believe he needed to say what he said) that I was offered a much preferable rate because I hadn't played games and had just been honest!

I think that came across in what happened to you John - people can pick up when we're being authentic and for strategic type categories and relationships I do think it works and is reciprocated. But trust in the truth teller only develops over time.

Has it worked for me professionally? Long term yes but when ever I meet new people they don't always expect the truth and doubt the honesty of what I'm saying. I remember when I was involved in a merger that months later people said "oh so you were telling the truth". Each time new management came in I'd have to go through the learning curve again and again and in the end realised working for myself was much easier than constantly needing to prove my honesty or being in an environment where being honest to the senior management wasn't accepted by them!

But then truth and honesty are values of mine and things I feel very strongly about. As Honesty and Truth are both nominalisations we will each have different interpretations of what they mean. As you say Douglas there's a range of grey for truth telling as there is for honesty. We will judge others by our own definition not theirs.

A wonderful topic.

Lon Blumenthal said...

Agree 110% for good news and bad news. In fact, the best basis of doing business with suppliers is to be transparent and candid all the time so both firms can continuously improvement the business together. If you behave like this, most supplier will be your partner most of the time. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Jim Zinaman said...


I appreciate your example of how integrity works in business, especially when combined with a genuine interest in other people and the ambition to follow up on details.

Respect, integrity, and trust are the three top corporate values of my firm, Kforce Professional Staffing. Given the current economy, if you have supply chain planning colleagues in the New York Metro Area who would be interested in project work, I would be happy to reach out to them for a potential assignment starting in July.


Jim Zinaman

Tuan Bui said...

I also agree with the sentiments on this topic. I have found that customers often may be disarmed at first but ultimately come to respect that fact that you are honest with your assessments and comments and portrayals of both product and people.

However, that being said, you have to assess whether some people can handle complete bluntness or eased into it.

Suzanne, as an implementor and change agent, all we have in the field is our word.

Mark Atanovich said...

My suggestion is to differentiate between being honest and being candid. I can't be too honest, but I can be too candid.

The task at hand seemed to be implementing the change without a corresponding increase in cost. I don't see how sharing that information increased your chances for success and not sharing would have been unethical.

Were you able to see something vis a vis cost your supplier reasonably could not?

Dr. PDG, Jakarta said...

I agree with Allison that this is a great topic......

My experiences match up pretty closely with those of Allison.....

I've found that in many of our clients, to paraphrase a quote from Col. Jessup in the movie, "A Few Good Men" that "they don't really want to hear the truth".

Also keep in mind this Tertulian quote "The first reaction to truth is hatred"

Dr. PDG, Jakarta

Phil Parkinson said...


The truth hurts in most cases and that is why people do not want to hear it because it forces people to deal with it. The one person who improved their career form the truth was the whistleblower on Enron, Sherron Watkins.



Douglas Story said...

Good point Phil. However, I wonder what company has hired Sherron Watkins to work for them? Has Sherron been able to find a job or is she making money on the speaking circuit? I don't know but I will start researching it.. it would be interesting to see what she is doing now. Many whistleblowers never get another job in industry after they have blown the whistle.


Dutch said...

John ... you write beautifully and it is very good stuff!!

... and you already have enough comments for an e-book ... let me encourage you to look into it ... I hate to see your stuff hidden in only Linkedin ...

I am reading a book entitled World Wide Rave ... and I recommend it to you.

Regards, Dutch

Kyle Tomson said...

As someone coming from the supplier side, I agree whole heartedly. During these uncertain economic times, it is critically important that both customer and supplier be completely open and honest with each other. We have recently had many customers who have had trouble paying us on time. In one case, the President of our customer called us, gave us details of the difficulties they were having, asked if we would extend more generous terms, and laid out a recovery plan with a path to getting things back to normal. We agreed to the plan, and our customer followed through on the plan. In the end, he helped ourselves by helping our customer, and our relationship was even stronger than it had been before.

In another case, our customer, wouldn't answer phone or emails about late payments, and when we did get a hold of someone, they would make promises that were later broken. This behavior went right up to the CFO. Because of all these games, we lost confidence that they would ever be able to pay us, and so we were forced to put them on prepayment terms. Since we had a critical path product for them, we were able to make these new terms stick. It was really a shame because we wanted to work something out with them. All it would have taken was a bit of honestly and we wouldn't have taken such a hard line.

We are all in this together, and only together will we all get out of it.

Fred Szibdat said...


That just reminds me of two Favorite Revolutionary War quotes.

The First, I must admit I cannot recall the exact author... but its still a favorite. In discussing the Declaration of Independence, and the rebellion "gentleman, we must all hang together, for assuredly, if we don't, we will all hang separately"

The second, I do know, as its in a favorite book from an old friend... Though it could be urban legend... John Paul Jones.... when a british captain asked him to surrender his sinking ship... at the reply to terms of surrender JPJ replied "Surrender? I have not yet begun to fight!"


Satya D Sinha said...

I am absolutely with John. Though i haven't worked with GE directly but my association with GE is since 2001 when we had taken over MANCER. I zeored on my core competence and realised that only Honesty will differentiate me from other players in the market. I was very new to the ITES market, prior to that i was in BD role and was taking care of other sectors. I approached GE because this was the only company came in my mind, which workd on ethics and integrity. It was difficult in the begining, however finally we became the best hiring partner with GECIS now Genpact. I am proud to be associated with GE / Genpact and belive that there is no Subsitute to Honesty.

Tiffany Fletcher said...

I would agree on the honesty part. Many have copied GE's business model but none have succeeded. Darn I miss working for GE. I am working desperately to get back there.
I worked for a company that had a large Diversity Group. It bragged about its ability to seek diversity. It was later found that the employees in the group weren’t very diverse. I think it was diverse to the point of including both men and women of one race.
Well, now that I think about it, the type of diversity was never explained so I guess they were diverse.

Suzanne Adele said...

I miss working for GE as well - GE is where I launched my career and to this day, I continue to draw on the examples set by the leadership - I worked for GE Capital during the Jack Welch days - the winds of change continued to blow within the organization as Six Sigma, Ownership and LEAD BY EXAMPLE campaigns were launched. The experiences were invaluable and continue to pay off today. Given the opportunity, I would return to GE in a heartbeat!

Merydith Willoughby said...

Honesty is everything in life and in business. And there aren’t shades of it: you’re either honest or you’re caught up in spin. You have to have a very good memory to be a good liar. I find it’s much more beneficial for everyone to be honest with my clients – they then know they can rely on me and what I say is what I mean.

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Sue McKnight said...

I couldn't agree more. Honesty is the best policy is a well known saying!
Apart from the fact that I am getting older, and lying (aka deliberately not telling the truth) would mean having to remember what I lied about and to whom!!
I say to my staff 'I will always tell the truth as I know it today' as things do change, and, as a manager, I know that with additional facts or other events happening, then the 'truth' can change. As long as staff/suppliers/friends know they can trust you to tell the truth, they can accept that things change.

Ronald Opdenberg said...

Here's a quote that I've somehow remembered. "The honest man is at the mercy of liars, unless he keeps silent." There is truth in this as I'm sure many of us know. One would have to judge when honesty would be met with honesty. So honesty is not enough, it needs to be acompannied with judgement. I'd think.

Ashutosh Agrawal said...

Makes sense..... I would say that a honest man need not go out and show off his honesty unnecssarily. He should use honesty with care. If you dont agree with a person, just dont tell him. No need to go to him and say that 'I dont agree with you' and risk spoiling relations.

Eleanor Biddulph said...

Somewhat off the original topic, but interesting discussion since today (April 30) is "National Honesty Day." When I first heard that yesterday, my reaction was, "Really? Just one day? And why do we need an honesty day to begin with?"

As referenced above, honesty is a key to integrity, and there have been very public discussions lately about integrity in the workplace. Since it seems that everyone agrees it is so important, why is it so quickly cast aside? What does that say about us as a society?

Esther Kohn-Bentley said...

I think organizations have it in their mission/vision statements that integrity/honesty/authenticity are important values, but on the ground, they don't get modeled by the leaders very much. Why is that? Self-protection? Greed? I think there is a lot of fear around too. People fear losing what they have, even if they have a lot -- maybe more when they have a lot.

Maja Landeker said...

"Honesty is the value of speaking truth and creating trust in minds of others." - Wikipedia.

All my life I am trying to be honest and usually people don't want honesty. They don't want to hear the honest opinion but the convenient one. Usually honesty in my career had brought me only trouble. Ironic, but true. Time is a great teacher and going along with it you learn when is the right moment to be honest and when to be quiet and keep it for yourself.

Mahir Topal said...

Interesting and wide topic.

My father always told me " son, do not lie! then you do not have to remember it". I have always this sentence in my mind.

What I understand from the word honesty is, accountability(the people can count on you,you do what you promise), trust and being just as you are, inside and outside and daring to say the truth that everyone knows but no one expresses it and believing in yourself no matter what happens....

I have received a lot of positive response for being honest and also some negative responses because I was too direct.... And I personally believe that, in my career path, being accountable and trustable played a huge role...

Also, during my career steps, I have found out/learned that, sometimes you need to be more diplomatic and some times, you need to present the truth to that person the way he/she will understand(adjusting the style) and sometimes you need to filter what you are going to say.... And sometimes just keep it for yourself.

I feel that, I become more and more aware of myself with the time....


Miriam Goldsmith said...

With everything that Mahir is saying in his last paragraph, LISTENING is the key.
The ability to adjust what and how we speak honestly comes from the ability and generosity to truly listen to another with openness and non-judgement. What is the ultimate reason for being honest? For me it is to develop a true human connection with another and to courageously step into relationship that is authentic and filled with real possibility for growth on every level. Being honest is not just about "me", but needs to consider and make the focus, "we".

Michael Memmel said...

I know a guy that said "the truth will set you free".

Jayne L. Wells said...

Michael - I know that guy too!

Anand Subramaniam said...

I think it is about the values one holds and whether you are going all out to save the soldiers in the trenches, being candid with what you have to say and not a YES man to the boss, in order to keep your job !!.

Atul Gupta said...

I believe in this corporate world, people use Honesty as per their covenience. If it is not effecting them, they don't mind being honest and truthful. But if it has anything to do with their career, they try to be more diplomatic rather than being Honest.

Going for an interview and saying I don't know all the times will not lead a Job but diplomatically stating - I need to brush up this has more chances of job getting.


Shaun Killian said...

Hi All

I understand the value of honesty and how it is one of the few univerally valued qualities a leader can show.

Yet, psychologists calim that the average person lies twice every day. Whether its asking your spouse to tell a caller you are in the shower and can't take their call, or telling the local shop attenedant you are 'good' when they ask you how you are.

My point is that there is a much larger gap between our espoused value of honesty and the values in action revealed by our daily habits.

As said earlier (by Tom I think), understanding the value of honesty is simple, yet living that value is far from easy.


Giuseppe Inzirillo said...

To be honest helps me in many situations, personal and professionals. Honesty means coherence and coherence means reliability. If we add determination at honesty our professional profile will increase day after day and more persons colud apreciate us.
I hope to works in the USA asap after experiences in italian Aerospace and Defence in Italy

John Bishop said...

If you're honest you don't have to look over your shoulder nor do you have to explain why you were not truthful. In the desperate times that all of us are in, being honest will still prevail if we choose it. I have gone through two manufacturing plant closures in 26 months and seeking employment. I do not intend to twist things around to fit a situation.

Joe Lynn said...

If you're honest you don't have to look over your shoulder nor do you have to explain why you were not truthful. In the desperate times that all of us are in, being honest will still prevail if we choose it. I have gone through two manufacturing plant closures in 26 months and seeking employment. I do not intend to twist things around to fit a situation.

Elizabeth Kieronski said...

Ashutosh, I have to disagree with what you stated "if you don't agree with a person, unless it hurts, just don't tell him". Honesty is not a personal thing; it is not personal if someone has a differing opinion than you, it just is. They may have knowledge you don't, or history with a particular subject that you don't. If someone throws out an idea and I disagree with it, I will, dispassionately. I would offer suggestions on other courses of action and explain why I disagree, and that person may or may not listen and heed what I say, but that person now knows my thoughts on the matter, and knows I didn't BS them with lots of yes's, or pretend to agree with them by not commenting at all.

I've found honesty with regard to customers is critical. If you know it'll take 6 weeks to make the product but you tell them 4 because that's what they want to hear, everyone gets cranky when you miss your deadline, have to work overtime, and deliver the product late.

For John's question, unfortunately, I have seen a career ended by speaking the truth. I'd like to think my career has been aided by being honest, but I don't have a specific instance where someone gave me a promotion or bonus for speaking/doing something honestly.

Felix said...


Please check out this site it contains some interesting books on leadership you might find of value in your efforts.

Did I tell you that I am really excited with you and your efforts in this regard. I say this because our society is so faced paced that all too often decisions are not predicated on the totality of the situation but the financial impact alone. Our colleges and universities are shying away from personal accountability more and more and if it were not for Sarbanes - Oxley future corporate leadership, and I use the term loosely would have no personal accountability at all.

Notwithstanding the outstanding opportunities military life brings to the workplace, that feature of Service has not yet been exploited as a value-added contribution brought to the workplace by that segment without any added cost.

In closing, all I do in family, business and pesonal relationships is centered on the Army Principles of Leadership. Brian Tracy's book helped me understand why I am who I am. I just never viewed how integrity in behavior and leadership are so closely aligned until Brian helped me see its connectivity.

Best wishes, in your endeavors.


Ashutosh Agrawal said...

Co-creating knowledge, learning from others by having a dialogue is good. Seeking other views and perceptions on subject and sharing yours is also good. I totally agree. But that is when the person on other side chooses to engage with you in constructive dialogue. When ignoring an issue can harm the company, one needs to be honest.

But you are sitting in negotiations which are critical to your company future and the other side has kept its cards closed, you don’t go out and be honest and show all your cards.
'Honesty with tact' as rightly said my Mr. John.

I never meant honesty as a personal thing in my sentence. It was used in broader sense, i.e. when it doesn’t hurt the organisation or society. It was interesting to note how the sentence got perceived. Thanks.

Donna Schukal said...

As a supplier, I add value to my relationships with my customers by being honest with them. I do not take orders that I cannot fill. If a customer is having a difficult time sourcing a component and it is at a distributor they currently have a relationship with, I tell them rather than take the order and exceed their cost point for that item. Honesty and integrity are all we have left in the end and it extends to the supplier-customer relationship in that added trust adds value to the products you sell and buy.

Charles Conover said...

Typically, Big Business does not foster and reward honesty.
The "Emperor" truly does not want to know he has no clothes, and those
of us who are truly honest in our daily worklife, tend to look for a good job at
a Company other than our current employer on a regular basis!!!
A "graduate" of the Jack Walsh school of cruelty and hard knocks!!!

Mónica Díaz de Peralta said...

Oh, yes I have! Many times. Telling the truth is one of the tennets of THE HUMAN ELEMENT® body of work. We teach listening and being open (honest) first, and move from there. Honesty with accountability make for great ways to work and live.

I have seen many an exec liberated by the concept because, as you describe, they had thought that this was out of the question! Just the personal energy you release by being true to yourself and others is astonishing. Most people don't consider the truth option at all, let alone among their top 5!

Today's work requires long term relationships with suppliers, industry leaders, collaborators and such. Honesty is the way to go to build sustainable relations! Plus, it is a breath of fresh air to many, after they get over the initial shock or doubts, that is.

Gregory Gull, Ph.D. said...

Being honest, being truthful, being authentic, not being duplicitous (integrity, being one not two)... yes we could go on to include all those higher level/order human qualities--they represent the spirit of humanness. Thus they are qualities of people that are in touch with and act out of their humanness.

So if we are all human, then why are these qualities exhibited by so few? Because so few--present company excluded of course--are actually committed to developing the self, while so many are committed to developing a career (i.e. read wealth, fame, fortune). A being versus a having way of living life.

Mónica Díaz de Peralta said...

It does boil down to that, Gregory. Being a better person. The point is, you can also be more successful at buisiness being authentic. Because business is about relating to others, more and more again, and it pays off to be truthful!

Esther Kohn-Bentley said...

Good point Gregory. I would add that so few are committed to developing the collective -- the community of humankind. When we develop ourselves, we add positively to the whole. If most were honest etc., think what the world would be like!

I think there is a growing number of us who are thinking this way. And yes, I think all our relationships will change for the better. And a byproduct of that will be that business will improve.

I don't go for the view that we should be honest to improve business. I just think it's a much better way to live, that's all.

Susan Shwartz PhD said...

It's sad when that's a question that has to be asked.

Honesty is a core value.

Gregory Gull, Ph.D. said...

Yes, being a better person is foundational to providing the critically needed leadership experience.

As Monica & Esther remind us the conduct of business is as much a social endeavor as it is a financial one. Economic activity involves both the exchange money and the exchange of trust.

While living without money will make life difficult, living without trust makes it unbearable.

Esther Kohn-Bentley said...

Thanks for bringing up trust, Gregory. It's so important for a leader to model integrity, authenticity, honesty for her/his people. That's how they learn to trust their leader, while at the same time, learning what the standard is for the organization. When they follow that lead, they create a community with these values.

They trust each other, and others (including customers) trust them.

Cynthia Guy said...

This intriguing string is continuing to intrigue.....reading some of these comments and I begin to feel as though I'm living in a different universe.After reporting on an analysis about a plant that was in trouble, the corp hr person said, "No one liked what you had to say but that's what I pay you to do."

Mónica Díaz de Peralta said...

Another universe? How so? Because they didn't "liked what you had to say"? Being the bearer of bad news is never pleasant. But mostly, I appreciate people being straight to me, even when I don't like the news. In business, it gives me a clue as to what my real options are.

Mark Bartovick said...

Like Cynthia, I too am beginning to think I've been working in something akin to a parallel world as I read through this string. Honesty has always been a given wherever I've worked and whoever I've worked for or with. Never in my working life have I ever experienced anything different, and I've worked in several different environments ranging from the military to US-style corporate to German and European-style corporate. There was never any need to dwell on the subject because it was always commonly accepted and expected by everyone. In the military it's a matter of honor and integrity that is deeply ingrained in you from day one and any breach normally brings severe consequences with it. I thought I would miss that when I went corporate but there has always something similar in place in all the jobs I've held since leaving the Air Force. Some of what I've read here is disturbing and makes me more thankful and appreciative for the paths I've taken so far.

Cynthia Guy said...

Dear Monica: Another universe in terms of this thread. I gave the illustration as a small part of my business world - when I deliver untasteful news (as tactfully as possible.) Perhaps the thread is moving into more esoteric arenas, becoming a philosophical discussion, and I'm taking everything too literally.

As Mark Bartovick said, "Honesty was always given wherever I've worked and whomever I've worked for or with." Same here. The chronically dishonest are soon identified and handled appropriately. Now, if the client is chronically dishonest, the professional engagement ends rapidly.

Miriam Goldsmith said...

Two different universes indeed. I think it's important to make the distinction between honesty as in "speaking your truth" and honesty as in "not outright lying". Speaking ones' truth fits into the larger context of self disclosure, allowing ones vulnerability to show through when appropriate, expressing a feeling, opinion, observation or feedback all with the intention of building trust and establishing true relationship and dialogue to move a conversation forward into more creative and authentic domains.

Mónica Díaz de Peralta said...

This thread reminds me very much of a story my mentor, Will Schutz used to tell: he was on the Johnny Carson show once talking about his work and he explained choice a lot and the main behaviors and feelings, the important parts of his theory and life work. When there was a few minutes left, Johnny asked, Anything else? Yeah, well, we tell the truth! He went on to be truthful about his reaction to Johnny and it ended up being the most compelling part of the show. The reactions were plenty and nobody remembered anything else except that he told Johnny Carson the truth!

Kristoffer Nelson said...

Hi Douglas -

Curious what you came up with in your research.

Hi All -

It seems like, more and more, people are interested in the truth. Especially now, since dishonesty (and tons of bad, short-minded business) crashed our economy.

A sea change is required though. I love John's story up on top where it never occurred to him to tell the truth. We have a whole culture of business based on making things up and saving face.

I know with my leadership and executive coaching clients, getting them to the truth, getting them to share the truth, and doing it skillfully can take many hours.

We have a long way to go, but are ready for the harvest.

Great conversation.

Thank you,


Douglas Story said...

Kris, Sherron Watkins is running the speaking circuit for about 35K per session and has made 425K on a book contract plus a % of sales. She is planning on starting a non-profit consulting company to aid companies in reviewing their finances to prevent Enron like problems.

So she has not gotten back on the corporate ladder but it looks like she is doing well without going back to corporate work. If I were her I would do the same thing.

I don't believe anything has changed that much. The spin will just get better. People in general can't handle the truth (to quote a movie) in its pure form. Look at what happened to Miss California and look at the way our current President flounders back and forth on issues.... public pressure and special interest on businesses and govt will always create an environment of spin.

Mariana Olariu said...

Hi everyone,

Great comments.

The truth of the matter is that people have difficulty dealing with the TRUTH. Probably because of the responsibility and the consequenties that come with it. Accepting and dealing with the truth can be most challenging. Most people will avoid saying the truth if they know that the price for doing that can cost them their promotion or even their job.

Personally, I’m a strong believer in: “ Treat others as you will like to be treated”.

Thank you,

Kristoffer Nelson said...

Thanks, Douglas. Interesting!


Guy Farmer said...

Great question John. I always wonder who defines what the truth is and how it is delivered. I find a mutual truth, arrived at through collaboration, is always most helpful.



Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo said...

Hi All,
Might be worth keeping this comment by Howard Taylor in mind. "When the messenger arrives and says 'Don't shoot the messenger,' it's a good idea to be prepared to shoot the messenger, just in case."

Or this one, by Arthur Schopenhauer? "Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident".

I am becoming more skeptical of our corporations and I do hope that sooner or later, (preferably sooner) the pendulum swings back towards ethics and professionalism in the business world.

Dr. PDG, back in Jakarta

Alex Kersha said...

John, great topic as usual.
There are many popular theories about leadership and effective team building that include components of what your focus in the discussion is. I would argue though that the last thing on the minds of leaders is whether or not they'll be idolized, iconized or worshipped by their mentees.

Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps there is some great calling that I'm missing. I for one however will continue to focus on making sure my team thinks I have all the answers and know exactly what to do regardless of the situation (whether or not I actually do). Should they choose to hang me up on their wall great but I really could care less. Just get your job done so we can bang brews together when it's all said and done.

Alex Kersha

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