Getting the Truth: What A Novel Idea!

In 1987, two British scientists announced that they could create fusion at room temperature.

Scientists around the world began working with this reporting, only to discover that they couldn’t duplicate the same results. It turns out that the two scientists hadn’t told the truth about their research. Millions of dollars and countless hours were wasted.

Science is based on honestly and accurately reporting what happened, as is (it turns out) any kind of reporting of results, whether it be research, journalism, investigations, etc., is also based upon the same kind of honesty and expected truth. We need people to report what’s really truth, so we can not only depend upon it without fail, but that we can work with it to not only come up with real solutions, but accurate ones.

In contrast, we don’t expect the truth in a poker game, in the negotiation of a new car, and especially (given the last few years) the campaign speech of a political candidate. We signed up for smoke and mirrors, hyperbole and some gamesmanship. In other words, if we engage in the process, we’ve signed up for the outcomes. The key concept here (as usual) is the outcomes and how they affect everyone.

If the scientific community is engaged with us in providing the factual results of experiments, then it’s on us to engage with that honestly. If our co-workers are engaged with us to hear the truth about the culture of our organization or the results of a new initiative, the entire system depends upon us providing the factual results regarding that culture or new initiative.

Living without accurate reporting of results (when it’s what we expect), goes far beyond the ethical problem with lying. Like the toxic loans that led to the financial crisis of 2008, when lies are mixed in with the expectation for truth, the system grinds to a halt. As a result, we spend all of our time filtering for the truth instead of actually finding actionable solutions that help us get the real work done.

It’s an incredible honor to have a role where we’re expected to tell the truth. Our colleagues are trusting us, letting down their guard and enabling us to create and produce great work. It doesn’t take much to break that trust and to degrade the efficiency of the entire process.

Truth Be Told, how novel would it be to not only have people expect the truth from us all, but to actually get it?

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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