This week I was writing an email to someone whom I had put off re-contacting for a few days. As I was typing the second sentence, I knew I was writing an outright lie.
Emailing that I had been really busy and time got away, blah blah blah, was not true at all. I had other reasons why I didn’t get back.
With courage I typed the truth, albeit with thoughtfulness and respect. Now, of course, the receiver may or may not have appreciated my truth, but either way it will be the foundation if any future ‘trust-based’ dealings eventuate.
The timing of that email was rather serendipitous among several weeks of being the receiver and observer of many ludicrous and down and out lies. We all know that sometimes a little white lie saves people’s feelings on a personal level and that we should deliver hard truths with care, but this is not the point here in a business trust context.
Trust and respect are eroded when excuses are given to mask incompetence, lack of processes, due care, diligence, desire, laziness or interest. Trust is the front, middle and end of every relationship we have in business and life. And yes, the truth hurts often, but lies are far more dangerous in the long run. We can only deal with the real situation, not a fake one. It takes too much energy to do so.
Don’t get me wrong – I do get that stuff happens, life changes on a dime, people do have issues at play, and understanding and flexibility are really important. And as those who know me well see that I put care front and center, but only if it is deserved by honesty upfront.
In the majority of cases however, most excuses are plain lies and nonsense. People will generally know and sense when something is wrong, but unless they confront that person, the backlash is a lack of trust and eventual erosion of confidence and business profits and reputation.
I’m sure you have heard or delivered some of the following excuses lately:
- I was really sick
- I tried and couldn’t get through to your mobile
- I didn’t receive your emails
- I have been swamped
- We had problems with the internet
- My bookkeeper should have done that
- I didn’t think you would mind
- The job has been filled
- The client has cancelled
- We couldn’t proceed with xyx
- My car broke down
- My uncle is in the hospital
- My cousin is sick
- Unforeseen circumstances occurred
- Can’t talk now
- I did not receive your message
Recently, I engaged some new suppliers (and I treat and consider suppliers as important as clients) who let me down across several areas.
As humans, we make mistakes and admitting them is key to building trust. But the lie I heard and read was gobsmacking. A total inability to admit fault or attempt restitution.
When you hear an excuse that has impacted you or your business, the key ways to determine honesty is checking if the person:
- Asks: ‘How can I make it up to you?’ or ‘What can I do now to help’
- Shows: Genuine remorse with sincere apologies and actions to demonstrate regret
- Doesn’t hide away and ignore you and is more visible
Guilt is a rather interesting emotion. It renders many people to the backblocks, never to be seen again for their shame, and shame is certainly an overarching factor when mistakes have been made.
Owning up to them is key, and most people will accept another person’s mistakes if they are owned.
The commercial ramifications of the excuses I had received recently meant those businesses didn’t receive further work or any recommendations.
So, how do we stop all these excuses to ensure we enhance our own personal brand and business success? If you cannot trust someone to tell you the truth, how the hell can you trust them to be a colleague, supplier, business partner or employer? I think it’s pretty simple:
- Realise the first person you lie to is yourself when you give an excuse
- Accept you are human and do make mistakes
- Give others permission to admit their mistakes without retribution
- Be honest. If you don’t wish to deal with someone, be honest about it
- Be direct. Don’t hide behind others (respectfully and legally)
- Own your mistakes and offer immediate restitution
- Show your remorse and mean it by actions as it encourages others too
- Put people before profits first and lose your ego
- Don’t turn a blind eye to the nonsense of others and hold them accountable
- Speak your truth with mindfulness and respect
I want everyone who reads this whenever you go to write or say what you know is an excuse to stop. Re-write that email, state the real reason, and offer truth and integrity.
Sue Parker is the founder of business consulting and strategy firm DARE Group.