Integrity is Deep: "That’s not what you said before!"
We see it all the time: leaders in high-visibility positions making comments and promises that they eventually just couldn't deliver on. “You promised staff cut-backs wouldn’t occur”. A typical response might be, “well, that was six months ago, and the economic situation has changed”. Or worse still, “our customer is not investing in our business any more”. Such comments send a ripple effect throughout the organization and one that questions trust (or lack thereof). They set the precedent for the type of behavior and integrity that is acceptable throughout the whole organization... to everyone (despite what the values on the wall plaque say). When it comes to our own personal values and integrity, you always have a choice. Do you tend to blame the environment, or the other person? Are you being true to your words and your actions to others? Do you know that many of your own headaches, daily conflicts, drama and problems arise from questions about your own integrity, more specifically, honesty? In this post, I’d like to talk about a concept I call the “hot air balloon” and it’s based around an analogy that honesty, even in its smallest form, in everything you do is your potential ticket to a happier life.
The Hot Air Balloon
The concept goes like this: How often do you send an email or tell someone a small little lie, only to find it coming back to haunt you in some way or another? With all the busy little tasks that we have to do in a day, sometimes we overlook telling the truth to cover up our own incompetency, inefficiency, or are afraid to show people we aren’t smart enough, or can’t handle the job. In some cases, we do it in a supposedly "nice" way so that we don't add burden to other people or don't disrupt the harmony of the group. Is this really the truth? As we'll see, this can actually have a negative effect.
Realizing it or not, these small little lies, which may not necessarily seem like a lot, are what I call the “hot air”. Each time you cover something up, or equally as effective, leave vital information out, you are pumping hot air into a balloon. When you pump too much hot air into that balloon, it will eventually explode! What does this explosion look like? It's as if you've tried to cover some problem that you seemingly
missed and you feel you will be blamed for by strategically wording conversations (or email) in a certain way that puts the blame somewhere else. Now you have to be aware! You have to be aware that if person A talks to person B, who might talk about it to person C, who then needs to report to person D.... When person D finally comes back to you three weeks later to investigate a customer complaint for the project you've been working on, you now need to make sure you remember what you said three weeks earlier to potentially cover up what has turned out to be a real problem (take a breath!). If you are making a habit out of these little lies, then imagine how many stories you need to remember! Imagine how many potential balloons will explode.
“Trying to suppress the truth is giving it a force of a 1000 hungry tigers”.
If you've ever been in such a situation, you'll know that when you're under pressure, it's difficult to remember all the details that you fabricated. When you project this fabrication to others, you project doubt and when you are trying to recall something that didn't actually happen, you will know the truth is still staring at you! This is the explosion! You realize that it would have been easier to fall-back to knowing what was true and being transparent rather than all the stress that goes with the efforts to cover something up.
Some people refer to the exploding balloon as karma. When you know you are making a decision or writing an email that feels ethically incorrect, or feels like you have to cover-up something, or you have purposely left out a small but important piece of information which you were hoping nobody would notice, or doing things that don't agree with your values, your mind is in conflict with itself. It (your mind) knows the truth, yet you are projecting the opposite. You are creating your own web of confusion.
"I didn't want to bother you..."
When taking the "harmonious" approach of not wanting to disrupt other people... this could be as simple as our overachievers taking-on too much work than they can handle, or trying not to add burden to others... yes, even these can constitute as little lies because what tends to happen when people take on too much (and they know it by the way)? They eventually either impact the project by missing deadlines, or have to scramble tasks and extra hours later on to meet these requirements, or have to ask for help at the last minute often compromising quality and performance and time of others... the list goes on.
'Yes' people and the unfortunate impact to others
One of the most difficult things we do is say "yes" to more work when we already have more than enough to handle. Let's think about a few of the messages we send out to the company when we make this little lie. We set the unrealistic impression that we can do more and more whilst stressing ourselves throughout our days and putting in extra (nowadays mostly non-paid) overtime. This tells the company that we don't need more people if we can have them do extra work for the same price. We send the message to our colleagues that by showing other people that we work "long" and "hard", and maybe they should too. We miss out on valuable time with our family and those who love us. Do you say "yes" to impress your boss? Or do you say "yes" because it agrees with your values? Would you say "no" if you knew it compromised your love one's time? Would you say "no" if you knew it compromised your long-term health?
"The power that goes with honesty is the root of true being"
If you are in leadership position, and leadership here means you have the ability to influence others, the repercussions of your actions will be felt by them. They will send powerful messages throughout teams, people you work with, other leaders, family members and those you interact with. If you are trying to create an organization, or a team, or personal brand which values integrity and transparency, then you need to show and encourage this behavior in everything you do. Most of us are very good at knowing whether or not we are being honest. If you choose not, you will face the hot air balloon at some point, in some version or another. For some it will be the obvious explosion. For others, it can show itself in your own health.
If you understand just one thing above, it’s that you have the power to decide how you can create that story. Every small step to creating new habits will take you another positive step forward. Avoid confusion and conflict in your own mind and you might just be making your life and your health and the life of others around you that little bit better and happier.
I hope you found this article useful. Let me know if decide to try leaving that balloon deflated :). Have a great day!
Love your life, live your values.