The best companies recognize customer expectations, manage customer expectations, and exceed customer expectations. And these companies are rewarded with a loyal, zealous customer base. Their customers become their biggest advocates. They offer word-of-mouth advertising, testimonials, and reviews on social media, Google, and product sales sites. But the majority of companies promise more than they deliver. And while most customers will forgive you for one failure, you will be held accountable for routine failures. As in, customers will find someone else to do business with. Because ultimately, regardless of the industry you are in, you cannot maintain respect with your customers if you do not keep the promises that you make. Great companies know the importance of delivery. They meet the expectations set at the beginning of a contract. Most importantly, if their contract terms are not competitive, they make internal adjustments. They do not make promises they cannot keep.
Everyone has told fibs, half-truths, and white lies. Especially when we were younger, when experience had not had the opportunity to teach us the dangers of omitting the truth. And fear took over our better judgment. Now that we are adults, we should shed these childhood habits and embrace the whole truth as the only way to deal with others. Because the only way to be successful is to treat everyone you meet with respect. And respect dictates that you are truthful with others. In contrast, falsehood represents a contempt for others. It shows that others cannot be bothered with, do not deserve, or cannot be trusted with the entire truth. Long lasting, deep relationships are never built on falsehood. So, the next time life confronts you with the temptation to skirt the truth, remember that only the truth will lead you to a lifetime of success.
What is your reputation in your local business community? Are you considered to be a person of your word? To be trustworthy? Do you have a reputation for doing what you say you are going to do? Or is your reputation less than honorable? Nothing irritates me more than to be told one thing by a customer or a vendor and later learn that it was not true. Everyone makes mistakes, and I will give grace to any long-term business associate. But nobody wants to work with someone who lies. It is simply unacceptable. People like to do business with people they like. And people of integrity like to do business with other people of integrity. So in business and in life, always strive to do the right thing.
As a business owner, one must decide how he will treat those around him. Will he treat his employees, his customers, and his competitors fairly? Will he be truthful? Will he be merciful? Certainly, there is a prevailing notion in our society today to succeed at all costs. That one should be willing to do anything to succeed. But I believe that you can succeed fairly. You can live a successful life and still treat others with respect and deal with them honestly. And when you are the victim of unfair business practices, you take the high road. Because winning at business is a small part of winning at life. How you win matters. This week, take a hard look at how you are treating the people around you. Be truthful. Show mercy. Live a life worth living.
Nobody wants to hear bad news. And nobody wants to deliver bad news, either. Phrases such as “don’t shoot the messenger” highlight society’s problem with blaming the deliverer of the bad news for the bad news. And it is safe to say that we have all done this in the past. As leaders, we cannot shoot the messenger many times before our team will learn to hide bad news from leadership. And hiding bad news from leadership prevents the organization from working to solve problems while the problems are still small. Instead, encourage your team to tell it like it is. Not only will that get your issues out in the open, but discussing problems with your team will engage more minds working on a solution. After all, that is what your team is for. So, ask your team what issues you should be talking about today.
It takes the entire time you know someone to build trust, and only a second to destroy it. As a leader, your team will trust you only as long as they believe that you are a person of integrity. That you will do the right thing no matter the situation. That is how you build trust with your team. In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz recalls a restructuring he initiated so his core company could survive. The bottom line: 150 employees would become employees of another company. And 140 employees would be looking for a job. Instead of going to New York for the announcement, a mentor advised him to go tell his employees where they stood. It could not wait a day. By showing integrity with these employees, he maintained his trust with the employees who would stay. How have you shown integrity with your team?
The relationships you develop with the members of your team are built on trust. You build trust by being a person of integrity. You show your team you are a person of integrity by acting consistently in all situations. Regardless of the situation you are in, your team sees whether you are bound by your moral principles or if you allow the situation to dictate your reactions. Situational morality does not build trust with the members of your team. Strive to be consistent with your principles and predictable with your actions. This is the only way to become a great leader. With it, your team will learn to trust you. From this, your team will grant you greater and greater permission to lead them. Your team will lean on you when times are difficult. And when times are good, your team will work hard for you.
There are plenty of businesses in the world whose ultimate goal is to win at any cost. Whether the company is interacting with its employees, its customers, or its competition, some have an insatiable need to come out on top. What these business owners fail to realize is they are jeopardizing their long-term success for a short-term win. In the long run, your business must build loyalty with its employees and customers. You build loyalty by being consistently fair with everyone you encounter. No, treating your competition fairly will not make them loyal to you. But your employees and your customers are watching. And their loyalty is vital to your long-term success. So, don’t wait until the end of your life to realize that you should have treated people better. Be a person of integrity. Win at business while you win at life. And have no regrets.