A lot of times, the compunction to “be nice” or to get along with the group gets in the way of being truthful. Has that ever happened to you?
Many of my clients have a belief that to be trusted, they need to be liked. And to be liked, they need to “be nice.” And that being nice means agreeing with everyone and everything. Sounds exhausting. And squishy. And not necessarily high integrity.
Early in your career, behaviors that you were rewarded for might have included:
- Saying “yes” no matter what
- Being a “worker bee”
- Agreeing with people, even when you didn’t actually agree with them
- Not disagreeing with people, even when you disagreed wildly with them
- Being likeable, pleasant to be around, and easy to work with
These things are important, but they are not the whole enchilada by the time you reach mid-career. In fact, they can diminish your integrity (and as such, your executive presence).
Chances are, if you are taking this course, you are at a stage in your career where you have been hired for a job, invited to a meeting, or made part of an initative because people want your perspective, judgment, and creativity. In other words, you have a seat at the table because people want the benefit of your experience, contextual savvy, and institutional knowledge.
- If you don’t take care to be known as a truth-teller, people might stop asking for your opinion.
You aren’t invited to be nice, always at the ready with the reflexive, “Sure!” Contributors at your level need to let go of the idea that being agreeable is everything. Of course, being likeable, pleasant to be around, and easy to work with are still really great things (so we’re not talking about a wholesale departure from workplace congeniality here). But don’t let your desire to charm overwhelm your ability to contribute and deliver success, either.
Instead, be a truth-teller. Bring your experience forward to:
- Point out what you notice
- Give honest opinions and perspectives about what you observe
- Avoid diluting the truth (while sharing information responsibly in tune with your context)
- Follow the “no surprises” rule — keep people informed and don’t shield them from the bad news
- Steer clear of being that guy who never has red on his scorecard — let your data be meaningful and full of insights
- And, always, be for-the-business
- Of course, being a truth-teller comes with responsibility so be sure you are delivering the truth in a kind and respectful manner that is open to different and diverse ways of seeing things.
Now you have learned about two key ways to demonstrate integrity: by being for-the-business and by being a truth-teller. Doing these things furthers your practice of being executive.
How are you practicing integrity and earning trust? If you are already engaging in the behaviors described, consider whether there is any room for improvement that could up your game even more.
“Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”
— Shunryu Suzuki
Let’s now move into the second bucket of executive practices: practices that demonstrate conviction and ownership.