Posts

Honesty

“That’s amazing! We have never received that amount ever in one summer before.” said the cashier.
It was the summer of 1985.
I had just completed my mission for the church, and a good friend got me a job working for the local council for the summer, before continuing my education in the autumn.
The job? It was the best ever! I was a children’s bicycle attendant in the local park (the Glen, in Dunfermline.) I worked outside the whole time and had the best tan ever!
Parents and grandparents brought their children along to the park where they were able to hire a range of different bikes which were used on a complete road system that had its own traffic lights! It was popular with generations of children from the 1950’s.
Every day, lots of visitors would arrive, they’d pay me the fees for the hire of the bikes in cash and I’d issue them a ticket in return. It was a simple numbered system and if you weren’t completely honest, it was a simple system to abuse.
At the end of each day, I’d complete a little report that tallied up the number of tickets issued, count up the cash and walk up the High Street to the local council office and deposit the money.
Usually, it was the same cashier every day and over time we got to be a little chatty with one another. At the end of the season, that is when she made the memorable statement above.

What does it mean to be honest?

In my mind it is simple. It means that we do not lie, steal, or break the laws of the land and we do not deceive in any way.
What was the honest thing to do that summer in Dunfermline? It was simply to hand in every penny that I collected. And I did.
As children from an early age in our home, we had been taught to be honest. Said the writer of Proverbs “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
The result of the honesty?

I was asked back again the next summer season.

How can you be completely honest?

Honesty

A few months after Decimal Day (15 February 1971), walking home from my grandmothers home, I stumbled upon a great find on the roadside. Unbelievably it was £40 worth of new notes. It was my lucky day! I guess I was around 6 years old at the time.

I shared the good news with my parents and they asked what I was going to do now? “Keep it” I exclaimed!

I can’t recall the exact words, but then came the teaching moment, “Is that the right thing to do?”

Shortly thereafter, the money was handed into “Lost & Found” at the local Police Station. Some weeks went by, lucky for me, no-one claimed the cash and I recall the money was invested in a bicycle!

As a parent, I’ve experienced similar trips to the Police Station with our children.

This was a great lesson learned for me as a child.

Choosing honesty that day, brought a warm fuzzy feeling inside, one I’ve never forgotten. It was the right thing to do, bringing peace of mind and self respect.

From Proverbs in the Old Testament we read “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Finally, as Carlyle said: “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one rascal less in the world.”

How important is honesty to you?

Never dissemble

A few years ago, I sat listening to Brad Agle, co-author of “The Business Ethics Field Guide” on a 2 day programme of workshops in London.   Frequently I recall the lesson of those 2 days.

In his keynote address, Brad asked the audience “what does dissemble mean?” Like many others in the room, I kind of thought I knew what it meant, but wasn’t exactly certain.  There were a number of suggestions from the audience, before a few definitions were given that went something like this:

  • to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of:
  • to put on the appearance of; feign
  • to conceal one’s true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically

In that moment, for me then, it simply meant to conceal the truth or to deceive.  Brad then shared some stories to bring further meaning to the point he was making which was simply this….“Never dissemble”.  

So, have you ever been party to a dissemblance?  Have you ever thought that misrepresenting or concealing the truth could create a better outcome?  Is it your natural tendency to push the limits of honesty to the very edge?

I have shared this story before, but it illustrates the point I want to make today.

A childhood story

Growing up in Scotland in the late 1960’s had its ups and downs. As a wee laddie, my mum would often have me run around to the shops to get a loaf of bread (plain – with thick ends), or some square sausage for the dinner. There weren’t any big supermarkets in those days!. I recall, one day however coming back home and eating a toffee dainty. Mum asked, “what are you eating”. I responded, “oh, its just a dainty!”. Little did I know the impact of that question.

Mum had given me a thruppence (three old pence), the exact money in those days for a loaf of bread. I came home eating a toffee dainty! How could that be?!  No sooner had I admitted what had happened, when she promptly marched me back around to the corner shop to confess my guilt to the shop keeper, for stealing the toffee dainty! I hadn’t overtly lied per say, but indeed it was a childhood lesson on dissemblance that has stuck with me for nearly 50 years.

To quote from the “Business Ethics Field Guide”… “often people dissemble just by keeping their motives to themselves – usually to look better or protect their interests. In fact, the Dissemblance dilemma occurs whenever misrepresenting or concealing the truth could create a better outcome. p128”

Niccolo Machiavelli in “The Prince” encouraged clever lies, tricks, cunning, duplicitous, controlling and manipulative behaviour  in order to get things done accordingly to his will.  Sadly in my professional career, I have been witness to behaviour of that type, which ultimately ends in failure, disappointment and pain.  We often see this type of behaviour on the global stage too.

Challenges of today

So what moral and ethical dilemmas are you facing today, at home, at work or in your social circles?  Do you frequently dissemble?  Are you even aware that you are doing it?

I believe that all human beings are innately honest. In the business world of today, we have seen too many examples of personal ethics and values being overridden by professional standards. I believe the value of honesty to be one of a number of ethical pillars that we must all resolve to live by, in every aspect of our personal, family and professional lives……. every single day. It can make a change to everything and to everyone.

As a professional coach, I have found over the last few years, that those of us who work in this profession, have an uncanny knack of being able to help.

My invitation today, to you, is to stop, reflect on what is happening all around you, consider what matters most – and then choose to do the right thing. The honest and truthful thing. It will, I promise pay many dividends over the long term.  And incidentally, if you are looking for a good coach to help you on your journey, I’d be happy to help you along the way.

Accountability 1984!

Yes – that’s me, I was 19.

It was November 1984 and I was in my first leadership role, working in Luton, England. Every month our team would meet together and the principle of accountability was front and centre.  We held each other responsible for the success and failures of the month gone by. As an extremely young and enthusiastic team leader, I decided that I’d spice up the accountability reports! Not only did I hire an American Footballers costume, but I adopted the hype and persona of a typical player! Yes, hard to believe that mild mannered old me, has an extrovert crazy streak running through me (thanks dad!). Subsequently, I recall (and my journal entries confirm) that the monthly reporting session was a tremendous success, even although the numbers and KPI’s themselves weren’t the best!

Our Actions

Through many experiences over numerous years and in a multitude of leadership roles I’ve served in since then, I’ve learned all too well, that “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere.  Actions or lack of action even, almost always have consequences.

The dictionary defines accountability as: “Someone who is accountable is completely responsible for what they do and must be able to give a satisfactory reason for it.” Accountability then has to do with one’s exercising his own will in making decisions and following a course of conduct. It implies self-initiative and a measure of self-reliance. But it requires more than the ability to act for oneself. It must be guided by a knowledge of true principles.

In my home, family, community and business life, I have learned that true principles of accountability, are essential for success. So, what are these guiding principles of accountability?

Take Ownership.

  • No matter whether you succeed or fail, it is much, much better to take ownership of the responsibilities given to you. Simply stated, people want to know who is responsible for certain actions and who is accountable for the consequences of these actions. I’ve failed on numerous occasions, but I can also choose to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with starting over.

Build Trust. 

  • Little by little, day by day, follow up on actions, be responsible, live your personal values and do what you say you are going to do.

Be Honest. 

We live in the most difficult of times and also the most amazing of times. It is absolutely critical to be truthful, honest, moral and ethical in all of your dealings at home, at work and in the community. To be anything different will cause you grief, heartache, misery, pain, leading ultimately to failure and despair.

Have Fun. 

  • No matter how difficult the challenges may become (and oftentimes they will), carry with you a sense of humour that will allow you to see the bright side of things even on the darkest of days.

Be Humble. 

  • In a recent article Humility vs Pride I suggested that “Humility is selfless not selfish. In fact I believe that humility is being authentic without any pretence or arrogance. It is really about being true to yourself and knowing your limitations, from the inside out.”  see – https://www.darylwatson.org/2019/05/13/leadership-essentials-humility-vs-pride/  I believe that a humility builds loyalty and responsibility.

Take Time. 

  • The most effective accountability moments are held one by one. Whether that is with your children in a personal interview, or with your boss or a subordinate in an important conversation. Be aware of the importance of taking time to do that. In Paterson etal’s “Crucial Conversations” there are numerous tips and ideas about how to make the most of those critical accountability moments.

My early attempts at motivational accountability in 1984, taught me valuable lessons about being present, in the moment and having some fun at the same time. Throughout the ensuing years, I’ve had to sit through some pretty tedious accountability interviews and meetings, some of my own doing too (thankfully only a few!)

I’ve found that consistently following these simple guiding principles will build great relationships over the long term.  In closing remember this quote from Thomas S. Monson; “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates!”