The World’s Biggest Liars

Truth, the kind that is supported by facts, seems to be in shorter supply all the time. I think much of the credit for that goes to the internet. Mark Twain famously said that “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up it’s boots.” 

Mr. Twain didn’t foresee the development of the World Wide Web, if he had he would likely have said a lie has no data caps but the truth gets 1gig max. 

Lies spread likes wildfires and these days Smokey Bear is no where to be seen. One person uses Social Media to strike a match and every one else pours gas on it with likes and retweets. It seems as if the only thing needed to make a lie the truth is the desire to believe it. 

As George Costanza was known to say on Seinfeld, “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” Unfortunately for George that’s a lie too.

Depending on which research you choose to believe people lie on average between 2 to 200 times a day. Most of the research on lying also shows that 75% of people claim they never lie, not ever. (They might be lying about that) So let’s take the midpoint of all the research and say the average person lies 100 times a day. Since 75% of people never lie, that means that some people must lie virtually all the time. You can’t believe anything they say. Whatever the actual number, most of the lies are thought to be harmless and even “protective” of people’s feelings. But telling lies is a slippery slope. 

The absolute biggest liars in the world, both on social media and in person are “They” and it’s close relative, “They Say.” 

They and They Say can make up anything they want and yet can’t be held accountable. They and They Say are willing co-conspirators of anyone who wants to spread rumors and falsehoods. People convince themselves that they aren’t lying because “They” or “They Say” said it. 

Kinda like, “I don’t know for sure but “They” say that the refs were bought off in each of the four Super Bowls the Minnesota Vikings lost.” Now understand, it’s not me saying that, “They” said it. I’m just repeating what I heard. So if it turns out to not be true it’s not like I was lying. 

Here’s the deal folks, if you spread something that may not be true you are at minimum guilty of spreading rumors. If you know it’s not true then you’re lying, no matter how much you may want it to be true. But even if you’re absolutely certain that something is true you should ask yourself if sharing it has any value to anyone or if what you’re thinking of sharing will cause irreparable harm to someone. 

I used to be a pretty big “They Say” sharer. I’ve worked over the last several years to stop that unprofessional behavior. I’m better off for making that effort and you will be too. 

Don’t pass on the words of the world’s biggest liars, there is enough fake information out there already. NO ONE needs more. 

The Enemy of Rumors

When I was a graduate student working towards my PhD in Psychology I developed a theory on the origin of rumors. Oh wait, I forgot, I was never a graduate student working towards a PhD in anything. I’m just a sales guy who has been around long enough to know some stuff. (Let’s see if my non PhD turns into a rumor) 🙂

But I did develop a theory on the origin of rumors. I figure people have this space inside them, like in their brain, where they hold information. They are most comfortable when that space is full. If it isn’t filled with actual information from factual sources then they fill it themselves, often with rumors. 

That would make factual information the enemy of rumors. 

Bosses, managers and even leaders all claim to hate rumors floating around in their organizations. Yet they fail to understand their own role in the creation of those rumors. When they fail to keep their people full of factual information their people latch on to rumors to fill up their information space. 

Many bosses, lots of managers and even some leaders believe that information is power. They think that when they share information they somehow lose some of their power and control over their people. So they withhold information. Even information that could help their people be more productive and successful. 

What Authentic Leaders understand is that information only becomes powerful with it is shared with people who can somehow benefit from it. Some people may use the information to avoid a problem. Other people may use it to solve a problem that already exists. Still other may use it to finish a creative project that was started by someone else who lacked the information required to finish it. Many people just pass the information along to other people to help them grow and develop. 

Still more people file the information away in their “space” until the day they find a use for it. 

Very little information is actually useless. It will likely all be used at the appropriate time and place. That’s why the most successful people gather bits of information every single day. Most people call the gathering of those bits of information learning. 

So if you’re a boss, manager or leader ask yourself how much information do you withhold from your people for the simple reason that you can. Ask yourself if your unproductive habit of not sharing information stems from your belief that holding onto information somehow makes you more important or powerful. Ask yourself if your unwillingness to share information might be a result of you lacking faith in your own leadership abilities. 

Then ask yourself what information you’re holding right now that could help the people you lead. Maybe it’s information that would help build the culture of your organization. Maybe it’s information that could help the sales team sell more. Maybe it’s information that could help your people help more customers. And maybe it’s just a fun tidbit of information about the company that people would appreciate knowing. 

Once you’ve answered those questions then you can launch your assault on rumors within your team or organization. Information is a formidable enemy of rumors. Arm your people with the information they want and need and their space will be too full to allow rumors to enter.

Communication Always Matters

I’ve never met anyone in a leadership position who likes rumors. Rumors create lots of productivity and morale killing conversations. Not public conversations mind you, but the whispered hallway conversations that stop suddenly with the appearance of a supervisor. 

The people in leadership positions who dislike rumors the most are often the same ones who create the rumors to begin with. They create rumors by failing to communicate with their people. 

The people who work in your organization have a vested interest in what’s happening within the organization. Lots of people in leadership positions tell me they share information on a “needs to know basis.” Those leaders fail to understand that their people NEED to know. 

I understand that not all information can be shared within an organization. I also understand that far more information could be shared than is being shared in most organizations. 

Too many people in leadership positions don’t understand their people’s need to know. They want to know how the company they work for is doing. They want as clear a look into their potential future as possible. They crave information. That craving causes people to invent information when none is provided. That “invented” information is delivered to others in the form of a rumor. 

Authentic Leaders know that real information is the enemy of rumor. That’s why they provide as much information to their people as is legally and ethical possible. 

The most current example of people needing to know is still the whole pandemic situation. The omicron variant is the current Covid 19 variant making the news. I’m not very knowledgeable in the Greek language but I believe “omicron” is Greek for “who the hell knows.” 

But just because you may not have all the answers about what your organization is doing with regards to pandemic issues is no excuse to not provide your people with the answers you do have. 

While leaders are storing up information to present all at once they are creating the rumors they so dislike. One very large retail operation recently asked their employees to submit their proof of vaccination by the end of the year. No other information was provided, only a request to provide the proof by a certain deadline. No reasons where given for a request that seemed to come out of the blue. No consequences were provided in the event you failed to comply.

You can imagine the rumors that started. This company has hundreds of thousands of employees, that’s a whole lot of rumors going around. It is by all measures a really good company. One that has taken good care of their people during the entire pandemic. But it’s an example of how even otherwise very effective leaders can forget the importance of effective communication. 

I hold people who have the audacity to call themselves leaders to very high standards. One of those standards is continuous communication with the people they lead. It has never been easier to communicate with your people, even if they are spread out around the world. You can write a internal company blog. Create a weekly informational video. A simple Monday morning email update with a “what’s up” theme. 

Many leaders tell me that they don’t have time to do those things. Some of those leaders don’t have time because they are too busy putting out the fires started by the rumors they helped create. 

People in leadership positions make excuses for why they can’t communicate with their people. Authentic Leaders don’t make excuses, they make communication plans and they stick to them. 

Your People Are Watching

Leaders lead by example, whether they intend to or not. Their people are always watching them and they will do what the leader does far faster than they will do what the leader says.

That means that if you’re in a leadership position and your words and actions do not match then your people will follow your actions, not your words.

In times of difficulty, and these times are certainly that, it is imperative that you realize that you are the model for the behavior you want and need from your people. Very few people will outperform their leader in a time of crisis.

It’s also important for leaders to keep in mind that every person has this area in both their heart and head that NEEDS information. It doesn’t need accurate information, it just needs information. That area will get the information it needs come hell or high water. If it can’t find the information then it will make the information up. That type of information is called rumor.

I have never met a leader who thought that rumors were helpful. So keep this in mind…information, accurate, timely information is the archenemy of rumor. Rumor finds it much harder to exist in a sea of accurate and timely information.

So keep your people informed. You’ll be much better off with your people complaining about the ton of communication then you will be if your people are filling their information areas with fear filled rumors. Even bad and difficult information to hear is better than wrong information.

When times get challenging you simply cannot over communicate. If you’re wondering how much communication is too much I encourage you to risk what you may feel is too much information.

If you’re running a business in these uncharted waters you must remember to not lose focus on what is most important. No matter what you sell or what service you offer you are in the people business. The businesses that best take care of their people, both their employees and their customers will be the businesses that come out of the other side of this in the best shape.

The most important part of your business is people because we are all in the people business.

Now, wash your hands!

Why Good Communication Matters

I’m really hard pressed to think of a situation where a leader could over communicate. I suppose it’s those situations similar to when a follower might ask what time it is and the answer includes the history of watch making. I don’t think there are actually many leaders who do that.

 

In my experience it’s far more likely that a leader will under-communicate than over-communicate.

 

It really isn’t necessary to provide more information to a member of your organization than they need to be successful. It is however vital that they have every last drop of information available when it’s relevant to whatever it is they have been tasked with doing. 

 

There are many reasons a leader might under-communicate but a big one is that too many leaders believe that information is power. That’s not actually how it works. The fact is, applied information is power and that information cannot be applied until it is shared. 

 

Leaders who withhold information from their people, for whatever reason, are not helping anyone, least of all themselves. A leader’s success is dependent upon the success of their people and without information their people are less likely to be successful.

 

Information is the enemy of rumor. People have this spot inside them that must be filled with information, if their leaders don’t fill it they will fill it themselves. Rumors are great filler! The trouble with rumors is that they are far too often wrong, filled with productivity killing miss-information. 

 

That’s why well thought out, meaningful and consistent communication matters so much.

 

If you’re a leader who doesn’t like rumors then stop them with information, correct, useful, and needed information.

 

Sometimes people at the top of an organization forget how invested their people are in the business. Your people want to know how the organization is doing, they want to know where they “fit.” They NEED to know they matter and that what they do is importance to the overall health of the organization. 

 

If you’re a leader then you have information that has the potential to super-charge your people. Don’t keep it a secret, don’t think being the only person who knows it makes you more important. Share the information and trust your people to use it to the benefit of the team. 


If you’re truly a leader that’s exactly what they will do. 

Information is the Enemy of Rumor

I’ve never met a leader who likes hearing rumors flying around the halls of their organization. I have however met many people in leadership positions who somehow believe that knowledge is power. 

Eliminating rumors and believing that holding information closely makes someone powerful are two competing interests. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that knowledge is only powerful when it is shared with those who can act on it. They understand that knowing something that someone else does not won’t make them more powerful. It simply makes them solely responsible to use the information in a productive way.

If you’re a leader who doesn’t like rumors then you should be sharing as much information as is  legally and ethically possible with your followers. Withholding information from your people does not make you a stronger leader but it is likely to make your people weaker and less productive followers. 

Here’s why…. information is the enemy of rumor! 

As humans we have this basic need for information about things that are important to us. Your people may not hold as lofty a position as you in your organization but their job is a huge source of their security. As such they want and need to know what’s going on with the organization that employs them. Absent real information they will fill their need to know with rumor and misinformation. 

When an organization and it’s leadership communicates openly with their people the information void is filled and rumormongering goes way down.

There are few things in business that limit growth and productivity more than rumors. Communication improves productivity.

It’s true that for a variety of reasons everything that happens in an organization cannot and should not be shared with everyone. It’s also true that in many organizations far more can be shared than is. 

If you don’t like rumors then block them with information. Ask yourself exactly why you’re holding back information from your people and if you discover you have no valid reason for not sharing it then share by every means possible.  

You’ll have happier, more committed and more productive people as a result. You’ll also have a whole lot less rumors.

 

How to Build a Rumor Factory

Most companies, managers, and leaders are not a fan of rumors. The most effective “creators” of rumors are companies, managers, and leaders. 

That’s an interesting contradiction and it happens because those three entities fail to realize this one key fact: information is the enemy of rumor.

Let me give you one example. 

The owners of a small company are very protective of their company. They have invested perhaps years of sweat and toil to achieve whatever level of success they have. There are “things” that only they can know, “secrets” that must be kept from “the employees.” They rightfully take great pride in their success and while they say their people are their greatest asset you might be hard-pressed to see that sentiment in action. They also hate, hate, hate rumors about their company. They hate it even more when those rumors start from within the company.

The employees however feel as if it’s their company too. They too have invested their time and energy into making the company a success. They want to know “stuff” about their company; things like it’s vision, future plans, maybe even how it’s doing financially. Actually, it’s more than wanting to know, they need to know, their future is tied to the company almost as much as the owners. 

So this gap exists in the organization, the gap between what the owners want their people to know and what their people believe they need to know. That gap will be filled! It will either be filled with accurate information or it will be filled with rumors.

The withholding of even basic information of any kind creates rumors. Poor managers and leaders mistakenly believe that knowledge is power; that’s just not right. Applied knowledge is power and no knowledge can be applied until it is shared.

When you withhold the information your people need to feel as if they are a vital part of the organization, then you, yes you, build a rumor factory.

If you’re a manager or leader and you don’t like rumors then you had best learn to communicate more effectively. You had better learn to share information that your people need to know. When you hold information that could help your people understand their role in the company you create rumors. When you fail to share your thoughts and ideas about the future of the company you create rumors. 

Rumors are created out of a basic human need for information. Information is the enemy of rumor, if you don’t like rumor then fill that basic human need with real information. 

Almost all information currently held tight by managers and leaders could be shared with their teams with no, zero, nada, negative consequences. So share it!

Now, a caveat… There is information that needs to be kept private. “HR Stuff” for instance. For publicly held companies financial information and reports cannot be released to employees before they are available to investors. I don’t think any right-minded person would expect that kind of information to be shared. 

Authentic leaders don’t let those those regulations get in the way of sharing every bit of information they can legally share. While some people think that information is power, authentic leaders know that shared information is powerful. 

Let go of the information and grow your people, and your organization, today.