I read a great article in The Guardian about Brexit and one of the points that it raised was about how difficult it is for Complex Truths to defeat Simple Lies. Now I don’t want to get into Brexit, as it’s a very divisive topic, but I do want to talk about the challenge it raises as this can impact results based leadership. How do you compete with people who use Simple Lies to make bold claims, either of what they have achieved or for what they are planning to do?
Part of the challenge is that we all want to be successful, we all want to believe that things are easy, that we can become overnight successes, or that we can achieve the difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible things .with the minimum of effort, and these Simple Lies just play right into that.
I remember I lost out on a job because a client wanted me to do the impossible, he had a 12-month project where they wanted to implement a number of systems and processes. I explained why it was impossible in that timeframe, but that we could achieve 80% of what they were looking to, which would really help move them forward, but even that would require a lot effort and a little bit of luck, but I was happy to give it a shot.
The company told me “thanks, but no thanks” we have a Consultant who is very confident that, not only can achieve, what I believed was impossible, but they also said it would actually be quite easy to do, and so they hire him.
Three months later I got another call from the company asking me if I was still willing to deliver the 80% within the remaining time. It turned out that the Consultant had been overly confident, and that they had seen little to no progress, in spite of paying him a lot of money.
I told them I would be happy to come and talk about what could be achieved, but that it was highly unlikely that 80% could be done given that 3 months had been wasted.
Now I could have done what the Consultant did and tell the client what they wanted to hear and take the job. I would have been well paid, and maybe as we moved forward I could have highlighted that 100% of the goal wasn’t possible, and got them to readjust their views. But that would have required me to have
But that would have required me to have acted ‘out of integrity’, to lie to the customer, and this could damage my credibility as it would mean that my word could not be trusted and that when I say something can be done, people would have the right to question it.
Integrity and credibility are difficult to attain and achieve, but they are so easy to lose.
I would always recommend that you be open and honest with the a client, or your boss, about what can be achieved, even if it means you losing out because even if you get the role, you will lose out in the end and could permanently damage your reputation.
That doesn’t mean don’t be bold, don’t take on big challenges, it just means be honest, if you think something is impossible, then say so.
When you’re dealing with people who tell you Simple Lies ask them how they plan to achieve it, ask for details because, in my experience, they are just hoping that you will accept their Simple Lies without challenging them too much.
Always remember the adage, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, so make sure you ask questions you understand the reality so that you don’t get suckered in.
When dealing with Complex Truths try and find a way to explain them simply, yes they solution may be difficult, it could be complex, but the simpler we can explain it, the more likely it is to be believed.
Results based leadership requires you to deliver on commitments and if you to take the path of Simple Lies, that’s never going to happen.