Turning Square Corners


Have you ever worked for someone who consistently lies about little things? I don't mean massive defraud the company/end up in court/go to jail lies, but small inconsistencies where the lies are subtle and you often wonder if they really happened.

A friend of mine is struggling in her job because she's discovered how her new boss plays loosely with the truth. She says there's a pattern to his behavior.  He lies when the truth disappoints someone, when he's uncomfortable, or when he's rushed. My friend likes her boss, but characterizes him as a guy who wants to please people to a fault.

Though he was initially a popular guy around the office, his reputation is crumbling as people see his convenient, little lies.

"I just wish he'd learn how to turn square corners,"  my friend bemoans.

I love that image.

There are no curves, no variables in squares.  Squares cease to be squares if the lines intersect at anything besides a 90 degree angle.  Even if you cut the corner a little bit, you have less than a square.

Do you really want to be less than?

In his classic book,  Good To Great,  Jim Collins makes the argument that companies who make the leap from "good to great" do so, in part, because they are committed to brutal truth. They have to stare at the facts and deal with reality, not with a distorted image or dream. Although Collins' argument is made on the macro scale, the principle applies to the individual as well.

If you want to be a leader worth following, people have to trust you in the big AND little things. They have to know that they get honesty every single time, even when it's awkward. Practically speaking, this means...

  • Your "yes" must mean "yes" and your "no" must mean "no."
  • You must engage in difficult conversations.
  • You must be willing to be uncomfortable when honesty is at stake.
  • Your need for speed can't ever outpace your integrity.

If you're not doing this,  you're not creating squares. You're creating something less than.