choosing between a rock & a hard place
Lance is over. But truth telling as an issue may never be over. We all deal with it everywhere in our lives. Especially in business.
I have always been interested in long-distance cycling – especially as exemplified by the competitiveness of The Tour de France. Then, when Lance surfaced as my hero, I thought cycling and the Tour de France might finally become of interest to many other Americans too. After completing a Boston to NYC group ride, I realized that if I were to be serious about this, I needed to turn in my Hybrid for a real road bike and participate more deeply – so, I bought the US Postal Service Trek (the same model Lance rode in his first Tour win), had it fitted by a pro, and then, one after the other, I rode 500 miles Fairbanks to Anchorage (2001) followed by 535 miles Amsterdam to Paris (2002) – I was won over by the incredible accomplishments of my hero and totally enrolled in the sport.
Then the rumors started flying and, as I diligently watched every Tour, I kept talking to my TV out loud as though he could hear me: “Say it ain’t so, Lance” I said, “Say it ain’t so.” Just like it was allegedly said by a young fan in 1919 to Shoeless Joe Jackson about the Black Sox scandal. His hero was dying right in front of his eyes, as was mine – and we both wanted it to not be true.
Then the bottom fell out. My hero admitted to everything and while exposing himself as the little guy behind the curtain who was manipulating a series of deceptions and he bared the ugly mechanism too. So, what’s the connection to Business Development?
Our business lives are rife with lies and mis-representations – both large and small – and I want to talk about our relationships as human beings and how not valuing our word destroys trust. Some people say lying is a part of our social fabric whether we like it or not, and that there’s nothing we can do – I firmly disagree and offer the following observation on how we can change the world.
Many people have found easy ways to justify lying – they often call it shading the truth. There is a common misconception in the business world that the guy in the salesman’s role will always shade the truth in order to close the deal – you know, caveat emptor and all that. It’s sad, but true that people say that. However: I say “misconception” because I don’t believe it’s universally true. This is why the Intentional Growth philosophy I employ always works by telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s all about trust. And relationship.
Have you ever forged a relationship with a salesperson who served as your trusted advisor? See? I told you there are exceptions. And I venture to say that the reason you have that relationship is that there has NEVER been a situation with that person where anything was misrepresented to you. When the answer wasn’t known, that’s what you were told. If a performance claim was made, it was backed up by fact. If you were being asked to make a leap-of-faith, the risks were clearly identified for you – without you asking for them. In fact, that person might even talk you out of buying if she thought her product/solution wasn’t right for you. That takes confidence and a commitment to the value of the long-term relationship rather than the short-term result.
So, would I buy anything from my ex-hero Lance? No. Never! What I’ve seen is bad judgment that could be easily replicated, and, even in the public confession, a blatant disregard for the humanity that should exist between people.
However, if my trusted advisor offers me a product/service, or the opportunity to make a leap of faith to buy something about which I’m skeptical? Of course I would – based on our experience together. Because I’ve learned to trust her!
The moral is tell the truth and be known as a trustable truth-teller. One who can be depended upon to tell the truth in all situations… not just some.
Don’t justify lying – ever. Whether it’s because you have cancer. Or because you have many cancer survivors relying on your foundation. Or because you must win in order to entice others to contribute to your foundation in support of those cancer patients. Or because it’s only a little white lie. And especially not because if you don’t hit your sales target, you might lose your job.
Succeed by building win-win, trusted, long-term relationships.