Honesty

“He whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

—Thomas Paine

1.1 What is honesty?

One way to look at honesty is to think of it as having internal and external integrity. Internal integrity refers to the consistency between what we think and say (i.e. “are we being honest to ourselves?”), whereas external integrity refers to the consistency between what we say and do (i.e. “are we being honest to others?”). If what we think, say, and do are not aligned, that is when we lack integrity and are being dishonest to ourselves, to others, or both.

Another way of defining honesty is behaving consistently when people are watching and when they aren’t. Are we thinking, saying and doing the same things when no one is around?

1.2 The benefits of being honest

We want to be honest to ourselves and others because it helps us to:

  1. Build a foundation of trust. As author Brian Tracy eloquently put it, "the glue that holds all relationships together—including the relationship between the leader and the led—is trust, and trust is based on integrity."
  2. Solve the fundamental problem. By being honest we can peel the superficial problem to get to the core of the issue.

1.3 Tips on being honest

  1. Ask the five whys. Doing so requires us to be honest with ourselves and the team, especially if one or more of the five whys lead back to us. (See habit: Five Whys)
  2. Intention matters more than expression. In deciding whether something fits our criteria of what is honest and what is not, it is important to consider people's motivations. We should be reading and listening with the intent to understand people's intentions rather than to reply. It is the heart behind the statement that matters most, not what is literally being said. This doesn’t mean that it’s not important how we express our intentions and that all the responsibility lies with the interpreter—that is not the case. We should always aim to articulate our intentions to the best of our abilities.
  3. Reflect when you feel you can’t be, or haven’t been honest. If we feel we cannot be open and honest towards each other, we should be asking ourselves "why not?"