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Scrabble squares spelling out, Who Are You

Transparency is Good; Honesty is King

Paul Kiernan

Be truthful. Make honesty a cornerstone of your company, and things will be well.

This article is not a political jag. Nor is it a takedown of anyone’s religion. It is an observation and, with that, a warning.

Heading into the new year, a lot of businesses are evaluating their previous year and thinking about what needs to be changed to get the company moving and seeing further. That’s wise, as resting on our laurels is a one-way ticket to disaster. A company should constantly be tweaking, evolving, adapting, and getting better.

As you’re working through your 2023 game plan, keep one thing in mind: stay honest no matter what you’re doing or planning. Be truthful. Make honesty a cornerstone of your company, and things will be well.

If your reaction to this is, “but we’re transparent; that’s right in our mission statement,” think on this, transparency and honesty are not the same things.

Transparency v Honesty

The two are not interchangeable, and if someone is trying to sell you the idea that they are, run. Run far and run fast.

At its base, transparency is about information and allowing it to be viewed by all. Transparency is an ideal.

This ideal of transparency means all information about the workings of government, deals being made, and the backgrounds and biases of those in power are both readily available to anyone who seeks it and easily understandable to the average citizen.

If you want documents or policies from a company, all you need to do is ask, and they should be available to you. But you have to ask for it. And you have to wait until the information you seek is given to you. You have to participate in a company’s transparency actively.

Transparency means putting information online and responding to requests or questions. That’s being transparent.

Honesty means telling the truth, even if no one has asked the question or inquired about reasons for actions being taken by your company. Honesty means doing the right thing no matter who's looking and no matter if you don’t get any credit for it.

“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”
Thomas Jefferson
A statue of Thomas Jefferson

Why Honesty Matters

Honesty is a vital characteristic of any business because it promotes a work culture that is positive and sustainable. An honest workplace builds trust, consistency, and loyalty in both employees and customers. An honest workplace is also more creative and open to taking risks and evolving positively.

Your company culture is all about the values and beliefs that the company is based upon. When honesty is one of those building blocks, your work culture is much healthier emotionally and mentally.

As a leader, how you view and respect honesty will define the culture you’re trying to promote. Make honesty a priority between you and your employees and your employees to each other, and your employees will feel respected, validated, and empowered. Having an honesty-based business does more.

Honesty Creates Consistent Behavior

That culture of honesty that you have created means your employees will exhibit consistent behavior no matter what the outside forces are doing. An employee who knows the culture of honesty means abiding by a consistent code of ethics will stay respectful and helpful no matter what kind of abuse they are receiving from a demanding customer. That makes your customer service team strong, and that is imperative for your business.

With a culture of honesty, you’ll rarely have to worry about an employee on a business trip padding their expense account. They have been steeped in the culture of honesty and that permeates all facets of their work.

Honesty Connects You Stronger to Your Customers

Think about how long it takes you to get customers and how long and hard you work to get their loyalty to your brand or business. That is not easy; one slip can bring the whole thing crashing down.

The Reputation Institute has been publishing a list of the most reputable companies in the world for years. This list ranks businesses by their values, the trust they’ve built with their customers, and their reputation within the industry. Being on this list means a company has a strong reputation for doing the right thing, and that is something customers are drawn to.

A great product or service may not be enough if your business practices are dishonest or you don't care about your impact on the world. Customers reward honesty with their business.

A blueprint

We’re Being Tested

Honesty has taken a beating for a while now in government, in business. In the latest news about the crypto market, the movers and shakers in that circle are showing us that honesty takes a back seat to making money, a lot of money at any cost.

Recently, a gentleman was elected to Congress, and he has just admitted that the information he put out about his education, work history, and religious connections is all a lie. This is a person whom voters have trusted with making laws and protecting their lives and interests.

Don't kid yourself; even with all the examples seeming to prove the opposite, being dishonest will destroy your business. Once the world sees you’ve lied and the lies are supported all the way up and down the company masthead, your chances of attracting new customers are slim, and it will take all your power and skill to keep the current customers loyal.

Truth and honesty are simple ideas, but they take time, energy, and commitment from everyone in the business. It doesn’t matter what the other companies do; it really doesn’t. Perhaps they may get away with being dishonest and rake in some serious money, but that will not last. Dishonesty doesn’t have the structural support upon which to build a successful business.

Despite what we see from major corporations, financial institutes, and politicians, honesty is not a word to laugh at; honest companies are not rubes and suckers, and honest people are not in La-La land. Honesty takes courage, guts, intelligence, and a clear moral compass.

Transparency is good, you need to be transparent in your business dealings, but honesty is the cornerstone. If you’re not being honest with yourself, your employees, stakeholders, or your customers, you’re doing a grave disservice to everyone, and you’re not helping your brand at all.

Transparency is good. Honesty is imperative.

ThoughtLab is …

This open, ethical work culture allows ThoughtLab to be risk-takers, vision crafters, and wildly creative people. It takes a little work, but it’s worth the effort.