Who Are You Protecting?
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In this episode...
Who Are You Protecting?
When it comes to telling your story, are you really being authentic and transparent? Or are you sugar-coating things to look good? This episode of Faithful on the Clock looks at the trend of companies “protecting the guilty” and encourages professionals to hold fast to truth, warts and all.
[00:04] - Intro
[00:38] - This episode is inspired by an experience I had with a client who essentially asked that I generalize a narrative to ensure his company looked good.
[01:43] - Additional examples of the whitewashing-the-story problem; why the experiences bothered me
[03:19] - Highlighting the best of companies is not the same as omitting parts of the record.
[04:24] - The competitive global landscape is feeding fear, which encourages whitewashing. Authenticity requires getting rid of that fear.
[05:07] - People are OK with imperfection, and you can spin your narrative positively without leaving out realities or “protecting the guilty”.
[06:22] - Both employees and higher-ups have to ask themselves hard questions about whether they are telling the truth. The best businesses are clear about what their struggles have been and how they overcame those hurdles.
[07:51] - AirBnB and Apple both are examples of companies who have spun their worst times positively and come away better. We hold these types of stories as motivational examples.
[08:41] - Be careful of how you tell your story. You don’t have to abandon truth or authenticity to present yourself positively, and it benefits everyone, including God.
[09:42] - Prayer
[10:19] - Outro/What’s coming up next
- I have had multiple experiences where I was not allowed to present a company’s story as it truly was. This made me question how much we’re really subscribing to the ideas of authenticity and transparency.
- You cannot straddle both sides of the fence. You either have to choose truth or say it doesn’t matter.
- You can tell the truth with the right spin. It’s just a matter of highlighting the growth and journey.
- Putting truth, authenticity, and transparency at the fore in your career or business is a choice, regardless of which level you’re at. You should ask yourself hard questions about whether painting a false picture benefits you.
- Companies like Apple and AirBnb show that telling the reality of what happens is not the end of the world. In fact, they can help people see you as an inspiration.
- Be careful how you tell your story. Always choose to protect God, because the rest is small potatoes.
- 5 Businesses That Almost Failed and Showed Us Why It Pays to Keep Going
- Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on Building a Company and Starting a 'Sharing' Revolution - The Atlantic
- Do a credibility audit for yourself, your team, and your business. How much of what you are saying in your story is true, and how much are you omitting?
What’s coming up next:
Authenticity and transparency are huge themes in contemporary offices. But are we really equipped to handle the majority of what people put on the table? Episode 46 of Faithful on the Clock examines the need for greater acceptance and flexibility as we learn to open up.
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Hey, everybody! It’s time for another episode of Faithful on the Clock, where there’s zero gimmicks, just stories, insights and advice to help you get your faith and work aligned. I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, and this week, I’m talking about how we handle reputation. More specifically, I’m gonna ask who we’re protecting in the age of transparency and authenticity. Hang on to your hats, because I’m giving it to you for free in about 5 seconds.[:
All right, everybody, this show is actually inspired by an experience I had just this past week. But it’s something I’ve encountered multiple times over the past few years, so I know that it’s not just a fleeting problem that’s out there. So what happened this week was, if you’ve listened to the show or read my bio, then you know my main gig is freelance writing. So I ghostwrote a couple of pieces, and the feedback was basically that I couldn’t write what I had written because it made the company that was involved look bad. And the client asked that, essentially to solve that, I just keep everything more generic. Now, I understand you don’t just want to crap on somebody else. But mind you, the story or narrative I wrote is taken directly from a client interview, OK? And what happened in this executive’s company, I mean, that’s what happened, right? And I can’t take that out, because if I do, that narrative is essentially gone. So it kind of put me in this really awkward position, because it was like, OK, tell the story but don’t tell the story.
Now, the thing is, as I mentioned, this is not an isolated event. I had one editor, for instance, where they provided me with a specific resource link to use. And that article they gave me talked about specific companies, but in the piece I was writing with it, the editor wouldn’t let me identify the businesses or leaders we were linking to. It was weird. I could link, but I couldn’t actually write out the business names of, or the names of the people. Then I had another publication, where I wrote a piece where I mentioned a company. And it was basically just kind of using that company as a springboard example to question how much executives are taking on in terms of roles and responsibilities. You know, I wasn’t using the article to point fingers or bash anybody. But the editors wouldn’t let me publish that piece as it was because they were concerned about how the leadership of that company would respond. So then I was in a position of, OK, how do I talk about this issue that really is going on in the corporate world but not name any names to prove that this stuff is happening? And that bothered me like crazy, because one of my fundamental beliefs is that if you want things to get better, you can’t be complacent. You have to expose the way things are. You have to acknowledge that something is off before you can come up with a better way of doing things. And I just felt like, for all we’re talking about being real and accountable with everybody, people kind of were in denial and wanted to turn a blind eye and pretend things were fine.[:
So what I’d like to do is just put this into the context of growth and transformation and the ideas of authenticity and transparency. And don’t get me wrong, I completely understand about brand building, how many millions of dollars go into ensuring that customers and investors have a good perception of you and your business. And I am not opposed to highlighting the best of people and companies and stressing the positive side of things. But there’s a difference between doing that and deliberately omitting parts of the record, you know what I’m saying? And so it really made me ask myself, how far does this idea of authenticity and transparency actually go? Are we just doing it at face value, where we kind of sugarcoat the reality of what’s going on and protect the guilty so we look good? Or are we actually willing to be completely honest no matter how many warts that lets people see on our faces? Because I don’t really think you can have it both ways. And you have to decide which side of the fence you’re going to be on.[:
So the idea I’m getting at is that I think that a lot of leaders today, maybe they want to be real with people, but at the end of the day, when it comes right down to it, they’re willing to gloss things over because they’re so afraid of losing funding or customers or any of those things. And I think it comes down to this picture that we’re stressing of how dog-eat-dog everything is in the global landscape. Because if you subscribe to that, then it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in, you know, that idea of hero leadership, which I’ll kind of extend to the entire company, where you just can’t make any wrong steps at all or you’ll lose everything. So if you wanna be real, if you wanna be transparent, you have to get rid of that fear.[:
And the first thing I want to tell you there is, and I just talked about this in Episode 43 on executive worship, we have the research that shows that people are OK with imperfection more than you might think. You can seem more attractive if you’ve got some flaws that show you’ve got a human side. The second thing is, and I think you marketers out there will understand this, but there’s this thing called spin. Spin doesn’t mean lying or leaving parts of your story out. It’s just a matter of where you choose to lay a positive attitude and emphasis. You do not have to sugarcoat the truth of your story if you emphasize what you’ve learned and how you’ve shifted from where you were. Because that’s what people are after anyway, right? They want to see these journey stories, they want to understand what you’ve done and been through. So if that means your leadership was the worst of the worst, well, then you admit that. But then you explain what you did to stop being the worst. You see what I’m getting at? It’s just a matter of showing the path you walked so that people understand you overcame the way you were. If you do that, you don’t have to, quote unquote, protect the guilty.[:
Now, I’m emphasizing this today because this is a choice at every level. If you’re on the bottom tier of the business, I’d just encourage you to ask yourself, “Am I comfortable covering things up? Am I gonna be comfortable at the end of the day or at the end of my career having done that just to make a buck?” Or just as importantly, “Does doing that actually make me feel fulfilled or happy?” And if you’re higher up, you know, you have to ask yourself, “What am I modeling?” You know, Matthew 18:6 says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” And if you’re setting this example where it’s OK to not be honest, isn’t that what you’re doing? Aren’t you teaching other people that your reputation or the company’s reputation, that it’s OK to fudge things and put God on the back burner? And I think if you really look at the history of the best businesses out of them, I mean, I don’t think there’s a business out there that hasn’t screwed up at some point. But the ones that have made it, the ones I think people respect, they’ve been very clear about what they struggled with and how they fixed it. And if anything, that gives them an even better reputation as companies who aren’t willing to give up, who can be secure enough in themselves to be accountable for what happens.[:
So to just give you some examples of what I mean, take a look at Apple. The way their innovation was declining after Steve Jobs left, that’s not a secret anymore. That was going on for more than a decade. We know how Jobs came back and turned that around. Another good example is AirBnB. That company, they’re solid now, but at one point, they completely were patchworking things financially. The story from their CEO Brian Chesky is that they even had to sell collectible cereal boxes to make ends meet. You might-a heard that one. But we look at those stories and say, “Oh, my goodness, they really worked hard and turned it around!” We hold them up even as motivators to say, “Hey, when things are bad, don’t give up. These guys didn’t and look where they are now.”[:
So my challenge for you guys out there is, be careful of how you tell your story. Sure, you want to present yourself in a positive way, whether that’s for your–your own professional life or the entire business. But you do not have to omit or abandon authenticity or truth to do that. Protect your truth, because reputation shouldn’t be built on myth. Build it on consistently taking ownership and sharing everything that’s made you you. You’ll feel better about the work, your conscience can be clear, employees and others will respond, and most importantly, God can take a look at your behavior and, because you’ve truly cheated nothing, God can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Protecting yourself or your business really is small potatoes next to protecting what God stands for, and if you go to battle for Him, He’s gonna protect everything else for you, anyway.[:
With that challenge, will you join me in a quick prayer?
Lord, the markets right now are so hot. And it’s giving everybody this idea that they have to be perfect, even if it means whitewashing things to get that image. And so God, I pray that you lead people away from that heat today. May we understand that honoring truth is honoring You, and that we can attract people to us by being honest about the growth and journey we have. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.[:
Well, that’s my time for this week, everybody. Next week, we’re continuing this theme of authenticity and transparency, and I’m gonna be talking about whether we’re prepared to be truthful from the mental health perspective. For now, I’m gonna remind you really quickly about our Challenge Me Monday group, and this is a really cool opportunity where I give a fun, scripture-based challenge for you to try each Monday, and that’s posted every week @FaithfulOTC on Twitter. You can download the discussion questions and then join us for a chat in the Twitter space on Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. It’s a good chance to meet some other Christians out there, so join us for that, and until next time, be blessed.