Four Warning Signs You’re Suffering from “Truth Decay”

Truth Decay

Hey Leader, can you identify the truth when you see or hear it? Can you tell when someone is lying to you? Do you think that telling “little white lies” are okay to do if you do it for good reasons?

And do you believe that the truth can set you free?

Truth Decay

Winston Churchill once pointed out that people occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.

The great American author and humorist, Mark Twain, opined that many people must regard truth as their most valuable possession since they were very economical in its use.

His advice was simply was this: “Always do right.”

Truth decay is the gradual erosion of honesty and integrity in a relationship. And if not diagnosed and treated promptly, can result in a complete loss of trust.

4 Warning Signs of Truth Decay

Here are four warning signs of truth decay and suggestions for prevention and treatment.

1. Withholding Information

WARNING SIGNS: This causes suspicion in the leader, a lack of empowerment in the followers, and wasted time and energy as people try to manage the business without all the right information at their disposal. People without information are incapable of acting responsibly. People with information are compelled to act responsibly.

PREVENTION & TREATMENT: Share information about yourself and the organization openly and in the appropriate formats and forums, and set the expectations of how the information should be used.

Trust your folks to do the right thing.

2. Not “Walking the Talk”

WARNING SIGNS: When leaders say one thing yet do another, followers quickly learn that the leader can’t be trusted. Leaders can not underestimate the power of leading by example.

PREVENTION & TREATMENTGet clear on what values are most important to you as a leader, communicate those to your team, and give them permission to hold you accountable to living those out.

3. Dropping Balls

WARNING SIGNS: Not following through on commitments is a leading contributor to truth decay.

PREVENTION & TREATMENTMake sure you under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t commit to do something unless you know you can follow-through. It can be tempting for leaders to think they have to say “yes” to everything, but if you don’t follow through on your commitments, then people begin to doubt that you are a person of your word.

As the Scripture advises us “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Mathew 5:37 (NIV)

4. Gossiping

WARNING SIGNS: When you engage in gossip or talk disparagingly about a colleague behind their back, you demonstrate a lack of care and respect for others. Your followers observe this behavior and begin to wonder to themselves “If my leader treats others this way, is he/she doing the same to me when I’m not around?”

PREVENTION & TREATMENTRemember, one of your most precious assets as a leader and colleague is your reputation and good name.

Creating a Culture of Candor

Leadership guru Warren Bennis has noted this:

“So much lip service is paid to the issue of business ethics; but how do you in fact build an organization distinguished by tangible integrity, moral vision, and transparency? The key is a commitment on the part of the corporate leader to establish a culture of candor in which followers feel free to speak the truth to power, and leaders are bold enough to hear such truth and act on it.”

As leaders we are responsible for setting the example of ethical behavior for our team, and if we pay attention to the warning signs of truth decay and take actions to prevent its spread, we will build a culture of high trust, engagement, and productivity.


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Randy Conley
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies
He helps leaders and organizations build trust in the workplace
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On Leadership, Being Right or Just Making it Right

Make it Right

It took me a couple of years of being a leader to get to the point of maturity where I could readily admit this humble truth about “being right”:

It just doesn’t matter who is right (my company or the customer).

On Being Right

To get to this point, I had to ask myself:

  • Was it really worth it to me (and my company) to be right?
  • Was it worth it to lose a customer over a seemingly insignificant amount of money, just so I could be right?

The answer was a resounding, “NO!”

Now, one of the coolest questions that I get to ask our unhappy customers is this:

What can we do to make this right in your mind?

Most People

Once I started asking this question I realized a few different things:

  1. Most people don’t want as much as you are willing to give to fix the problem.
  2. Most people really admire you, as a company, for owning the problem, and fixing it.
  3. Most people are appreciative, and end up sticking with you for the foreseeable future.

I say MOST people, because you will inevitably get the customer that makes up the 1%, and decides to abuse you. You will encounter the customer that goes against all things human, and has unreasonable expectations in regards to a potential solution.

At this point in the relationship you, as a leader, get to decide if you are going to tolerate this customer abuse, or if you are going to fire the customer. I have done both.

However, any time you have the chance to excel in the eyes of the customer, it creates a win-win-win (customer-company-employee), and you get to reap the benefits!

You also create a raving fan.

On Making It Right

What is a “Raving Fan” you might ask? Ken Blanchard is an author of several books that speak about different business, leadership, customer service, and team concepts. In his book, Raving Fans he talks about creating a customer that is just satisfied vs. a customer that will bring that satisfaction to the next level by talking about your company to anyone that will listen.

Almost every sales trainer out there will talk about this concept. Gerry Layo & Jeffrey Gitomer talk about how satisfied customers are the scariest customers, because:

  • They never complain
  • They never call in for problems with their billings
  • They never call to discuss their concerns
  • They just leave
  • They go to the competition, because they perceive that you don’t care

Even if you haven’t done anything to offend them, directly. You haven’t done enough, in their mind, to give them a reason to stick around.

Opportunity to Lead Your Customers

Layo and Gitomer also discuss how dissatisfied customers provide the biggest opportunity for your company to grow. If you care for them in an exceptional way, you have the chance to gain a customer for life.

You have the chance to impress a customer so much so that they tell everyone they know about your efforts. These are the most enjoyable customers, because they look forward to hearing from you, for any reason! I’ve had some of these customers actually thank me for sending them a bill!

There are other variations of this concept, but you get the point.

So, how are you creating this type of customer for your company?

Have you gotten over yourself (and your ego) enough to ask an open-ended question like the one above?

You open yourself up to a lot of scenarios by asking a question like this. Are you ready for it?

What are you doing with the list of these customers? Are you keeping them a secret, or are you broadcasting them to your entire company, so they can see the type of company that they work for? You, in essence, are becoming a “Raving Fan” yourself.


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Lucas McAlpin is Director of Residential HVAC at Thermal Services
He enjoys contributing to leadership conversations via blog, FB, and LinkedIn
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On Leading Like a CPA: A Lesson in Ethics

Got Ethics?

As in most professions, CPAs can run into ethical dilemmas on a regular basis. However for CPAs, the process for handling the ethical dilemma and the outcome must follow specific guidelines as established by the CPA profession and its regulatory agencies.

The AICPA has a Code of Professional Conduct its members, and most other licensed CPAs, must follow. How a CPA manages ethics in accounting is often dictated by these guidelines, although it is obviously up to the individual CPA to implement the proper method.

On Leading With a Code of Ethics

CPA firms and other businesses often have their own code of ethics or conduct as well, either for their entire staff or specifically for CPAs.

These ethics and conduct rules guarantee all CPAs and employees act in an exceedingly consistent manner.

Whether your firm does or doesn’t have their own specific set of ethics and conduct, be sure you’re following the necessary professional standards and review your actions to make sure you’re following commonly accepted principles.

CPAs have the unique responsibility to provide their clients and the public with the security of knowing their advice carries the basic tenants of the CPA profession: integrity, objectivity and independence. Each of these qualities ensures the CPA operates on a higher level and is able to provide the necessary advice that removes them from the situation.

On Leading With Integrity

Integrity is a vital basic part of the CPA profession

Integrity requires CPAs to be honest, candid and forthright with a client and how their financial situation is presented. In order to ensure integrity, CPAs should prohibit themselves from personal gain or advantage using confidential data, such as insider trading.

While there may exist variations in opinion to how an accounting standard is applied, a skilled CPA can avoid being the victim of an unethical decision by following the proper guidance.

For example, any intentional deception or manipulation of financial statements is not ethical.

What is every leadership position had this standard?

On Leading With Objectivity and Independence

Objectivity and independence are also vital moral values within the CPA profession

CPAs should stay free from conflicts of interest and questionable business relationships when providing CPA services. Failure to stay objective could hinder a CPA’s ability to supply an honest opinion. The CPA profession usually limits the types of services a CPA firm or individual CPA can provide so they do not conflict.

Accounting services embody general accounting, auditing, tax and management advisory services. CPAs who perform any of these services for a client could be compromising their objectivity and independence if they also perform other conflicting services.

For example, a CPA cannot perform accounting services and audit services as it would involve them auditing their own work.

As such, CPAs need to be independent in their services.

On Leading Like a CPA

No matter your profession, if you do run into an ethical dilemma, be sure to consult the ethical standards that apply. If you have a mentor they may also be able to advise you.

Ultimately, the decision on how to handle the ethical dilemma is yours.

If you chose to be swayed by the prospects of hiding accounting errors or using your inside knowledge to gain monetary rewards, and you are caught, you will be subject to fines, loss of your license and even jail time.

The consequences of failing to abide by your ethical standards are much worse than the work it may take to follow them.


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Jason Monaghan is Specialist at Notre Dame Online Executive Education
He serves his clients with development and distribution of content strategies
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Occupied With Ethics

Occupy This

The following comments, spoken by a once-prominent business executive, appear to be a warning for graduates about the ethical challenges awaiting them in the business world. As it turns out, his words provide a hint that the speaker is a crook.

“You will be confronted with questions every day that test your morals. Think carefully, and for your sake, do the right thing, not the easy thing.” –Commencement Speaker to St. Anselm College’s Class of 2002

The Story Unfolds

That speaker is Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco International, who is currently serving a prison sentence for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from his employer’s coffers.

You might remember seeing news stories about Kozlowski’s lavish lifestyle—a vintage yacht, millions in artwork, a $2.1 million birthday party for his wife in Sardinia—all paid for by the money he looted from Tyco.

What in Kozlowski’s seemingly helpful commencement remarks should have alarmed us to his lack of ethics? He played his hand by suggesting that doing the right thing is a choice—one that requires careful consideration.

“Truly ethical leaders know that behaving ethically is not an option to be weighed day-by-day, or question-by-question.

You’re either ethical or unethical. If you have to stop and think about how to respond to life’s moral tests, odds are you’re the latter. And that’s what should have tipped us off to Kozlowski’s true character.

“Doing the right thing should be an automatic reaction. But is doing the right thing always enough?”

Too Big to Fail?

Government BailoutsWhen a handful of New York City protesters first took to the streets to Occupy Wall Street, they were calling attention to an obvious injustice: the Wall Street leaders whose greed and corruption caused the Great Recession managed to escape the crisis largely untouched.

Taxpayer bailouts restored their companies’ damaged balance sheets—along with their outrageous personal bonuses—while ordinary Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their faith in fairness.

In a sense, the Wall Street Occupiers are modern-day revolutionaries who, by standing up to corporate misbehavior, have fired a symbolic first shot in an emerging class war between the haves and have-nots.

“What took so long for the rebellion to begin?”

Why is it that, nearly four years into a devastating economic downturn, someone is finally pointing out that Wall Street institutions were not victims of the financial crisis—as many of them would like us to believe?

They were, to a large extent, the perpetrators who created it.

Occupy This

To be sure, critics of Occupy <your city name here> say the “movement” is too unorganized, too unfocused, or even too irrelevant.

But regardless of how you feel about them, these grassroots demonstrations are providing a needed reminder that ethical leadership requires a greater commitment than simply behaving ethically.

As leaders, we have the added duty to confront the unethical behavior we witness—to call out those people involved, lest they go unpunished.

Ironically, Dennis Kozlowski’s plummet from sought-after commencement speaker to convicted criminal symbolizes the wave of corporate corruption that made Business Ethics:101 a must-take college course.

For its part, Occupy Wall Street offers a lesson not covered in most business ethics classes: the willingness to speak out against unethical behavior—at work or on the streets—is a requirement to being an ethical leader.

And, like always doing the right thing, there really is no other choice.


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George Brymer is the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®
He delivers Leadership Workshops that help leaders at all levels evolve

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Leaders: Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Decision Making


Sometimes we need a “guide” to help us discern the proper action for a given situation.

Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Success

Ten Steps to Making Good Moral Decisions

Use these steps as your guide for examining all the possible options in a situation.

Go through each step in order, and make sure you do this process on paper. Writing your answers can be very helpful when you’re in an emotional state about a particular decision.

The writing process directs your emotions through the pen onto the paper, not at another human being!

Step 1

Identify exactly what the problem is

  • Where’s the dilemma?
  • Where does it stem from?
  • Who is involved in it?

Write down everything that’s part of the problem.

Step 2

Identify the goal

  • What’s your aim in solving this problem?
  • What do you want to happen?
  • Is your goal total customer satisfaction?
  • Peace in the workplace?
  • Your kids’ happiness and success?

Whatever it is, write the goal.

According to Dr. Charles Garfield, a goal, i.e. objective, is a dream with a deadline. Without a deadline you have a wish and who’s got time for wishes???

Step 3

Brainstorm as many alternative solutions as you can

“Don’t think logically, and don’t let practicality get in your way.

List as many solutions for this situation as you possibly can.

You can always get rid of impractical ideas later. But unless you have a wide variety of alternative solutions to examine, you can’t really get clear on exactly where you want to go.

Step 4

List the facts—what you know, and what you don’t know

“What do you know about this situation?”

Equally important, write down anything you don’t know and need to find out before you can make a decision.

This may entail asking other people, other companies, other entities for their input, so you can have all the information you need to make the best possible choice.

It’s been my experience that 9 times out of 10, what you didn’t know was crucial to making a better decision! Take the time to find out as much as you can about what you don’t know and you’ll be better off.

Step 5

Identify the people who will be affected by this decision and the principles involved

  • Who in your company will be affected by this decision?
  • Which of your customers?
  • Who in your family and/or your community?

List every person and entity affected. Then make a second list of the principles involved in the decision.

  • On what basis is this decision being made?
  • Is it the company’s mission statement?
  • The values statement?
  • Your personal code of ethics?
  • Customer satisfaction?
  • The bottom-line?
  • What are the key values and principles involved in making this decision?

Step 6

Lists the pros and cons of each solution option

For each solution, write down the risks inherent in using this particular option.

“What are the possible costs to you, your co-workers, your company?

Next to the risks, list the benefits for each solution as well. Be thorough; make sure you list as many risks and benefits as you can for each possible solution.

Step 7

List the importance of each solution and the likelihood it will happen

  • How important to you, your company, or your community, is the choice that will be made?
  • And looking at each alternative solution, what are the chances that it will come to pass?
  • What is the chance you will lose the customer?
  • What is the chance this solution will cause your company to downsize and people will lose their jobs as a result?
  • What is the chance the market will shift?

“Weigh each solution carefully.

  • What’s the importance of the choice, and what are the chances it will happen?

Step 8

List your reasons for choosing each solution

From your perspective as CEO, sales manager, head of sales, parent, friend—whatever the case might be—what would be your reasons for choosing this particular option?

List your motives for each solution you’ve created.

Step 9

List your priorities and preferences

  • If you had your way, how would you like this whole thing to work out?
  • What’s your priority when it comes to this decision?

Step 10

Now, looking at your answers to #1–9, make the decision

Keeping everything you’ve written in mind, make the decision that seems to suit the needs of the situation.

Give it your very best shot—after all, our best is the best we can do.

Following these ten steps helps us to use reason more than emotion when it comes to the tough moments in our lives. The chances of making a better decision after some clear discernment are much, much higher and always more effective.


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Frank Bucaro 
is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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Leaders: Steps to Making an Ethical Decision

Moral Development and Leadership? What a concept!

We all make decisions constantly. We decide what to wear, what to eat, whether to answer the phone, which route to take to work, and so on.

We’re used to making decisions. But the really tough decisions are those where there’s right and wrong on both sides, or where our decisions may cause pain to another individual or to ourselves.

Understanding Decision Making

Right and Wrong

It’s important, first, to understand just how we make decisions, and second, to have a method of evaluating things so we can make the tough choices with a clearer mind and easier heart.

So, how are we conditioned to make decisions?

Jean Piaget
, a Swiss child psychologist, studied the ways children make decisions, and constructed a theory of what he called the “stages of moral development.” Later another psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg elaborated on Piaget’s theory and applied it to adult decision-making as well.

This work states that, as we go through life, our decisions are based upon different factors, arranged in a logical progression.

Stage 1

The first stage is through the threat of punishment.

That’s how a lot of us were raised growing up: “If you don’t clean your room, you can’t go to the party.” Punishment deals with fear and external motivation—not a very high place from which to make a decision, and certainly not a way to run a business or corporation.

Stage 2

The second stage is with reward.

“If you clean your room, I’ll buy you that jacket you want.” This is how we turn our kids into capitalists. Reward is great motivation, but unless you want to be held hostage by constant demands, it’s not effective. If your kids or any of your employees ask you, or imply this attitude of: “If I do that what will you give me?” you know they’re motivated only by reward.

Stage 3

The third stage is the concept of good and bad.

You’re a good employee if you do this, a bad employee if you do that. However, the terms “good” and “bad” are relative; they mean the person doing the speaking is making a value judgment. If I call my employee “good,” what I’m really saying is, “You did what I wanted you to do.”

But does that necessarily mean that the employee sees it in the exact same way?

No. He or she could be saying inside, “Boy, that was a stupid way to get that done,” or “Gee, that wasn’t the kind of service I wanted.”

Stage 4

The fourth stage is rules and regulations.

Did you ever hear your parents say, “As long as you live in this house, you’ll do the dishes” or “take out the garbage” or some other list of chores? Every business also has rules and regulations for its employees’ behavior.

We all have to live with rules and regulations.

However, what’s directing our choices in all of these cases—punishment, reward, good and bad, rules and regulations? It is all based on external forces. We’re deciding based upon what other people are telling us, not what we’re telling ourselves.

Stage 5

The fifth stage is choice and commitment.

As you grew up, you began to make more and more choices for yourself, right? You chose the courses you took in school, whether to go to college, what you majored in, where to live, who to date. You chose and then committed to that choice.

Whether it’s the kind of peanut butter you buy or the job you take, choice and commitment form the basis of most adult decisions.

Stage 6

The sixth stage is internalization.

You become what your choices are. You are a doctor, or a cop, or a secretary. You’re married or single. And the great thing is, you can continue to evolve based upon your choices every minute. None of us are truly stuck in what we are because we’re constantly evolving, constantly becoming something different and hopefully better. Becoming is the essence of living—you only stop becoming when they put dirt on your face.

We need to be operating from the highest possible level of decision-making, where we have internalized the ethics and values that are important to us and we allow ourselves to evolve as human beings, managers, workers, parents, spouses, and children.

These stages of development are extremely useful when we examine our decisions from an ethical perspective. The first step is to identify your own level of decision-making. It’s an important question, because you cannot lead people beyond where you are. The goal is for you and your associates to make decisions based upon choice, commitment, and internalization.

You want to choose and commit to the values of your company, and internalize those values so completely that there is no question about the appropriate response in any situation.

Understanding the Stages

How can you tell where people are on this scale? If someone is working on levels one through four, they will use the phrase, “What do I have to do?”

If they’re operating on levels five and six, they will be using the phrase, “What can I do?”

Your people will tell you where they are.

It’s your job as the leader to empower them to move to a different stage, to a different level of relating and motivation, but only if you are on the level you want your people to function on.

Therefore the onus is on the leader to be able to discern not only where your people are on these “stages” but more importantly the “stage” you’re on, as a leader, because you cannot lead beyond the stage your on.


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Frank Bucaro is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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On Leadership and Ethics: The Great 8 Habits

Right or Wrong? Right or Left?

Your values, code of ethics, and the internalization of the same are the basis for your development of conscience. Ethics have to come from the inside out, not from the outside in. 

According to Aristotle, we can grow and expand in our virtuous behavior through habit.

Aristotle states:

“Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.”

The Great 8 Habits

Start building ethical habits by using these 8 reflection points each day:

1. Find every opportunity to practice the virtues of integrity, trustworthiness, honesty and compassion.

2. Ask yourself this: “How is my organization better today because I am in it?”  And “In what ways?

3. Weigh out your actions  in order to cause more good than harm.  (Consider the short-term vs. long-term consequences of your actions.)

4. Ask yourself this: “How am I a better person because I am part of this organization?

5.  Remember to treat each person with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.

6. Be aware of whom you benefit, whom you burden , and how that decision is made.

7.  Find and name strengths of the organization  that can help you become more human.

8. Practice getting beyond your own interests to make the organization stronger.

Making Them Real

Would you like to make these 8 habits part of you life so that you can better lead others? Then work to mentally internalize these ethics and values. You will need to make them a natural part of your decision-making process.

It has been said that “Ethics are what you do even when nobody is looking.”

When you internalize your code of ethics—when principles like honesty, decency, and looking out for the other team member form the basis of your daily decisions and actions—then you can make the tough choices with more confidence. I’m not going to kid you: even when you have a clear code of ethics to guide you, the tough choices aren’t any less difficult; they’re just clearer.

Often the “right” course is simply the one that will cause less damage in the long-term.

Short and Long-Term Thinking

For example, the ethical choice may mean you refuse to support your boss in fudging figures on a report.

~ In the short-term this might cause a rift between you and your boss, perhaps even make you both look bad to company management.

~But in the long-term your credibility (as well as your boss’s integrity) will be less damaged by telling the truth than by lying and possibly getting caught.

Once we have internalized our personal code of conduct, then comes the hard part: we must choose to abide by those ethics and values in each situation that arises.

Remember, ethics are honesty; not just in principle, but in action.

Frank Bucaro
 is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc. 

He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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