There are several values I hold dear, but honesty and integrity rank right up there at the top. I’ve always felt that I need to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of every day and feel good about who I am and what I’ve said and done. I simply can’t sleep well – if at all – if I don’t have a clear conscience. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I mean what I say and say what I mean. I never make a promise that I can’t keep. Then I do what I say, and I lead by example. Anyone who knows me will attest that this is incredibly important in my life.
I think most of us would agree these are important values, but I fear that these values have eroded away little by little in our society. It’s so easy today to relax the rules and tell little white lies. It’s never been easier, because we can communicate via technology so much, to hide the truth and avoid looking people in the eye. It’s so easy to speak out on an issue and say hurtful, controversial or inflammatory things, whether it’s political, societal or something else, because you don’t even have to get off your couch to do so and you may never see or appreciate any consequences. It’s also never been easier to compound these actions, or maybe even others, to create more serious situations where trust and identity are confused or even lost. Trust me, I know of which I speak – I’ve seen this happen and have personally suffered the consequences on many occasions. I’m sure it’s happened to you too.
The problem with this is simple: it’s just not right. Besides that, it creates so many other situations with additive consequences, and before you know it we have a series of compounding problems that only get harder to resolve.
There’s no question that our society is incredibly fractured today, maybe as much as it’s ever been. No matter your politics, we’re in the midst of a presidential transition that has people as charged up as ever before and that has probably caused you to take a side. There are so many societal issues that have people on edge. We all have our issues with our family and friends. It’s all quite overwhelming, really, when you sit down and consider it all. There’s so much that’s right and good in business and in the world, but it’s often overshadowed by everything else grabbing headlines in our lives.
But I believe this is precisely where we, as communicators, have to rise above it all – and do so through actions, and not just words. No matter who we work for and what we have to communicate about, we have an obligation and a duty to our stakeholders (and society) to model the best in communication for others. This includes truth, accuracy and openness. We have to listen – because we all know that good communication requires truly hearing what others have to say and reacting accordingly, no matter how much we might disagree. When others might lead with misinformation or accusation, we have to lead with compassion and understanding. If we don’t, who will? There’s obviously not enough of this happening in the world today. So it’s up to us – the pros – to take the lead.
Honesty and integrity matter, as much as ever. I choose every day to spend my time and do my business with people who share these values – and back that up with their actions, and not just their words. Sure, it’s about being a decent person – but it’s also about doing what I think is my own small part to help our society be a better place. Now, as we head further into 2017, please join me as I rededicate myself to this effort and work to advance our profession and society.