Truth Will Out

“The Captain was sober today. He was unable to perform his duties as he rested fitfully under restraints in his cabin slipping into and out of consciousness…”

So wrote the rebellious first mate as he made the daily entry into the ship’s log. The ship’s captain who innocently had become incapacitated by illness was delirious with fever and unable to command the ship. The first mate who despised and begrudged the captain took truthful words in a manner that implied the exact opposite of the truth. He simply besmirched the captain’s character by accusing the him of being an habitual drunk by recording a true statement, but omitting the crucial explanation of the real circumstances.

Businesses who operate using half truths, false promises, and unjustifiable claims put their company, their employees, their customers, their suppliers, their community at extreme risk. They cannot survive very long in the marketplace before all injured parties seek retribution. This is especially true in the area of sales, when a customer can review the seller’s reputation almost instantly over the internet and through social media. Customers frequently interact with similar people when it comes to purchasing decisions. Instead of Caveat Emptor, or “Let the buyer beware,” the table has turned to “Let the seller beware.” It is very easy today to get caught in a lie or misrepresentation.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, in Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage, write: “Untrustable business models thrive in our economic system today largely because being untrustable can be highly profitable—in the short term anyway—and many businesses are managed almost entirely for short-term results.” Rohit Bhargava, in Likeonomics, tells us: “The first and most basic reason for distrust is because there are so many companies and people who choose to lie to us either by making misleading claims or simply by hiding the truth.” And these are from the authors who want to help business (as opposed to, say, David Cay Johnston, whose forthcoming book is titled The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” and Other Tricks to Rob You Blind).

The greater the transparency, they are saying, the harder it is for companies to be trusted.

By giving people a window into its workings, a company can show it has a sound process that it’s adhering to. It can avoid asking customers to have faith in a black box. The greater the transparency, the greater the trust. Honesty and integrity are the foundations of strong leadership, in business and in life. Integrity isn’t really a value in itself; it is simply the value that guarantees all the other values.

There should be no exceptions to honesty and integrity. Integrity is a state of mind and is not situational. If you compromise your integrity in small situations with little consequence, then it becomes very easy to compromise on the bigger situations.

Great companies never compromise their honesty and integrity by cheating. Those that do and get caught pay a dear price. Volkswagen, for several years, claimed an emission standard the complied with the United States Clean Air Act. The EPA had found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate certain emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing. The programming caused the vehicles’ atmospheric pollutants output to meet US standards during regulatory testing but emit up to 40 times more pollutants in real-world driving. Volkswagen deployed this programming in about eleven million cars worldwide, and 500,000 in the United States, during model years 2009 through 2015.

In addition to the company ’s integrity being shredded, on April 21, 2017, a US federal judge ordered Volkswagen “to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine for rigging diesel-powered vehicles to cheat on government emissions tests.”

Leaders with integrity are not afraid to face the truth. When a leader recognizes that the reality of conditions are different than what they would wish them to be integrity demands truthfulness and honesty regardless of how ugly that may be. They also need to be open to the idea that they could be wrong. There are many leaders who eventually fail because they refuse to question their own assumptions or conclusions.

Businesses led by people with high integrity and honesty inspire trust and loyalty from employees. The entire staff can operate with confidence and motivation to drive the business toward the company mission.

Honest business practices build foundations of trust with all of the company’s stakeholders; employees, customers, suppliers, community, competitors the general public. Creditors and investors become confident to fund company development. Consumer confidence is strengthened as reputation grows.

Every business situation is a target for honesty when a business owner reports to investors, files taxes, and markets his products and services. The owner has the choice to provide honest accounting in every case. A business can commit to quality control and assurance. It must truthfully report earnings and deal with customers with integrity by backing up its work and products. Treating employees, partners, investors and customers honestly creates an environment of trust and support.

An owner must resist any short-term gratification at the expense of long-term commitment to the intricacies of relationships in which his business is involved. He can avoid the potentially deadly pitfalls that crops up when dishonesty clouds perception. Honesty helps to diminish greed, envy and the actions that accompany those less than virtuous qualities.

Truth and honesty are never easy. They sometimes become clouded, hard to determine, and especially difficult to accept if they vary from predetermined thinking. But as cream always rises to the top of milk, truth finds its way to the front.

LAUNCELOT. Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son. Give me your blessing; truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son may, but in the end truth will out.