Be Impeccable!

Believe it or not, I’m a simple guy – at least in my thinking. I like to keep things simple in how I think and how I live. Part of that simplicity involves how I look at my own behavior and the behavior of others. Another part applies to how I look at the challenges we face in business, leadership and even life. One simple reality for me is that at the heart of most challenges is a trust issue. When teams or people fail to communicate well, it’s typically a trust issue. When teams are not engaged or fail to execute, often there’s a trust issue there too. Certainly, when people and relationships are out of alignment, it’s almost always a trust issue. Therefore, if we can address the trust issues (and failures) we can address many of our personal and professional challenges.

Many people confuse trust with honesty. Although honesty is one element of trust, there are many other layers to trust-building or trust-busting. One core element of building trust is assuring that your beliefs, words and actions are all in alignment. For example, if you say one thing but do another you destroy trust. Likewise, if you treat one person (or group) different than another person (or group) based upon something other than objective standards, you can break trust. One area of trust-busting that we often miss is the need to be impeccable with our perspectives and thoughts. I’m talking about being consistent between what you do and believe, no matter which side of an issue you’re on.

For example, if you expect others to speak to you in a respectful manner, then you will do the same with others. If you believe that certain behavior is close-minded, then you will commit to avoiding that close-minded behavior. There’s an old saying that “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” and the same is deeply true for you – what you think is good for other people must also be good for you. One of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to act one way when it serves you and act another way when it doesn’t serve you.

I’m sure this seems obvious to you, and you may be thinking, “Duh, of course, and I don’t do that.” The problem is that most of the time when I see this kind of misalignment or lack of impeccability in someone, that person doesn’t see it. In other words, this is one area that is often one of our blind spots because we all want to believe that we’re being consistent. What we want to be true, we often simply and unconsciously believe IS true—even when we’re mistaken. This is an especially big risk when dealing with subtleties.

Recently, a leader was sharing with me a challenge she had with one of her team members. The issue was that the team member was pushing back on a planned change in strategy because he felt that the new strategy might be negatively interpreted by the team. The leader communicated that she did not believe that a change in strategy would be negatively interpreted, and I agreed with this assessment. If there was such an interpretation, it would likely be based upon some other underlying trust issues that ought to be addressed in a different way.

However, in the very next breath the leader expressed to me how another suggested strategy shift might be negatively interpreted. There was no real difference in the strategies or situations, yet the leader wanted to interpret one situation one way and the other (similar) situation a different way. When I told her that the situations were essentially the same, she pushed back and wanted to argue for her position. I then told her that part of leadership demands that you apply the same standards to yourself as you do to your team. It took some time, but eventually she saw the problem.

Let’s look at another more specific situation. I have clients and friends who are quick to encourage others to embrace the idea that they always have a choice, and yet some of these same people will tell me that they are facing situations where they don’t have a choice. We are all quick to give advice to others on a myriad of topics, but do we (and will we) follow that same advice? We laugh about this inconsistency, but the deeper truth is that when we are not impeccable with our words and perspectives, people can lose faith in us. Inconsistency breaks down trust.

One of my favorite examples is the old saying in business about the cobbler whose children have no shoes. In other words, I give advice to my clients but I don’t do the same thing in my business. But this throw-away saying hides the truth of a real problem. If you’re not doing what you’re advising someone else to do, it creates a significant trust issue. How can I trust your advice if you don’t practice what you preach?

I could go on with many more examples of situations where we are not impeccable with our words, beliefs and perspectives, but I think you get the point. What you may have missed before (beyond the actual misalignment) is the impact that this has on trust. I have no doubt that our culture is suffering from serious trust issues, and one way to start addressing our trust gaps is to be impeccable with our words, beliefs and perspectives. If it’s good for the goose (others), then it’s good for the gander (you)!

Will you be consistent in your beliefs? Will you assess yourself on the same standards you use to assess others? Will you commit to aligning your actions with your words? Will you be a leader that people can trust through your actions and consistency? Will you be a leader who says what you mean and means what you say? Will you be impeccable?

Its a Matter of Trust

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