Honesty in business (Fev. 2019)
Sincerity and business… These two words put side by side seem incongruous, so much of the reputation of the business community conveys the image of false and manipulative relationships. Particularly in France, companies and business have a bad press. So why is it this way when, on the other hand, every successful transaction seems to imply mutual trust between the buyer and the vendor?
Probably, in the past, certain itinerant sellers would cross the country selling products of dubious quality with the idea that they would never see their client again. Their smooth-talking allowed them to remove the doubts of suspicious “potential customers”. That said, we can believe that the majority of them, hoping to avoid roaming from town to town to escape their reputation, would guarantee their products in all honesty!
Today, even more so, the growing complexity of product offers and services should have created a relationship of the utmost honesty between buyers and sellers, favorable to reassuring the future customer beyond his technical understanding of the arguments presented. Let’s not get carried away, the commercial strength of the big brands was at first built on a marketing promise and advertising, aimed more to seduce than convince. The commercial forces are often reduced to presenting pre-formatted offers that they didn’t contribute to building, then provide the first level of after-sales service when said offers prove to be unsuitable or defective. Indicating very little honesty before the deed of sale!
And yet, in terms of interpersonal communication, honesty can be a strong adjustment mechanism, if it’s put to use with dexterity. Indeed, the subtlety of the exercise consists in delivering a message in an “acceptable” form without distorting the fundamental honesty. In this way, in the prospective relationship, the development of a “benevolent honesty” helps limit the loss of time and energy – for the potential buyer as much as for the seller – overcoming the limits of courtesy. The clear expression of the seller’s intentions and the objections of the prospective customer densify the business communication and give it great efficiency. To reach this objective, the two protagonists must learn to recognize their unconscious fears that influence them: fear of being rejected by one, fear of being attacked by the other in case of being turned down. The fool’s game is replaced by an objective dialogue which allows evaluation of the opportunity to continue – or not – the relationship.
In the field of management, the expression of feedback under a mode of “benevolent honesty” is one of the key tools of awareness, the first step in personal development. On a collective level, developing this practice can help limit social conformity, this unconscious reflex of submission to authority, which restrains the emergence of singular thought. Of course, promoting this individual expression, which is freer and more original, will necessitate a climate of confidence, where the right to make mistakes is the consequence of risk-taking.
It’s clear that developing “honesty in business” requires behavioral lucidity which cannot be enacted or implemented overnight. On the other hand, experience proves that the process of self-knowledge, once engaged, doesn’t stop. As is often the case, it’s the first step that’s the hardest…
Let’s give back meaning to work (Sept. 2018)
I had the chance, and pleasure, to chair a conference alongside Monique CASTILLO, philosopher, speaker, and university professor, during a meeting of the ANDRH Paris XVI group on 17 May 2018. Here is the transcription of my speech:
The increasing complexity of the globalized economic environment is exerting growing pressure on companies and their teams. LOSS OF MEANING TO ACTION is exacerbating a negative perception.
- The weakening of traditional institutions (family, school, state, religion, etc) has shaken the foundations of collective values. The company is expected to set a new framework. This new challenge is often elusive.
- Since the beginning of the century, the race to expand, with difficult mergers, has often crushed individual performances, giving the illusion that it’s possible to do business without employees.
- The acceleration of technological progress and the virtualization of communication radically alters human relationships in the company by isolating individuals.
- The financial strength of major companies puts enormous pressure on the ego of the managers. Some sacrifice their integrity and their collective values for the illusion of remuneration and unlimited power.
- KEEP IN PERSPECTIVE THE PRESSURE TO ACT: taking a step back becomes an act of management. Highlighting the weakening of mankind’s “kingdom” (climate change, weakening of great democracies, the rise of protectionism, systematic financial risk, possible disappearance of major companies), is a paradoxical way of reinforcing commitment. By reducing the operational exhaustion of everyday life, the awareness of our limits as human beings recreates the foundations necessary for efficiency.
- LET THE MOST “COMPETENT” MANAGE: too often the process of spotting, developing and appointing the best candidates is invalidated by the managers themselves when it comes to filling key positions. The risk is that they choose team members for their loyalty or even their submissiveness rather than for their high level of competences, which are essential for challenging the status quo and lead to safeguarding strategic breakthroughs.
- INNOVATE ORGANIZATIONS: traditional organizations, pyramidal or matrix, are mainly rejected by young talent who approve the informal organization of startups. Even if they often find themselves trapped by the power stakes induced by rapid growth, this major movement shouldn’t be neglected. Numerous innovations are being tested in current liberated organizations (See “Reinventing Organizations” by Frédéric LALOUX): power handed back to autonomous operational teams, disappearance of duties, minimum meetings, decisions by soliciting opinions, etc. The main question remains that of sharing power…
- DEVELOP BEHAVIORS: these innovative organizations couldn’t function without a major change in individual and collective behaviors. The works of Will SCHUTZ in “Profound Simplicity” suggest an exciting experiment to get back to the essentials of modern human relationships after having integrated all its complexity. The protagonists are asked to develop self-awareness by taking responsibility for their lives by their choices, and by developing honesty. This densification of the relationship allows access to hidden subjects (often taboos), matters of human malfunctioning, and their repair.
Developing meaning to work involves the CONCRETE PROJECT OF PUTTING BACK HUMANS AT THE HEART OF COMPANIES. Appointing a Human Resources Director as a catalyst for change is a key factor of success.