By this time I’m sure you have heard that last week Brian Williams was suspended from the news for exaggerating events that occurred while he was covering the Iraq War. The media has shown how Brian Williams’ stories slowly evolved over time to be more incredible than they were. The worst part for Brian Williams is that his little white lies may have ruined the trusted ‘brand’ that he has spent decades to create with the public and his personal brand may never recover.
In business life I would bet that we all have told little white lies. We may have exaggerated the importance of our role at a past company or used hyperbole when recounting a funny office experience. The most common place in business where these little white lies occurs is in marketing, on resumes, and in sharing business ‘war stories’ from past companies.
Common examples of little white lies in business include:
- Customer logos on your website for customers that no longer use your product/services or who never did so in any meaningful way
- Exaggerated claims of the ROI that your product or service can bring the average customer
- Your contribution to the strategic vision and bottom line at past companies that were successful
- Past revenues and sales figures
Every time we tell one of these little white lies it is like a bird dropping landing on a windshield. It stains and distracts from the clarity of the truth. In nearly every instance if we eliminated the lie our stories would still be valuable and people would still respect our contributions. Just like Brian Williams who even if he wasn’t shot at while in Iraq (which may or may not be the case), it is still impressing that he was in Iraq covering the story.
We should challenge ourselves to clean our windshields of these little white lies. Eliminate the distractions and clutter from our company marketing and our resumes and speak with honesty and clarity. Doing won’t devalue our past experiences as individuals and we eliminate the risk of hurting our careers, companies, and business relationships.