"Honesty is the best policy" is a well known adage authored by – you guessed it – Benjamin Franklin.
While I agree with Franklin in principle, I believe honesty is neither a policy nor an adage but rather a value by which to live. Honesty is genuine, sincere, and consistent. It can also be liberating because there is no need to backtrack what was said, no conflict with the reported facts. It is what it is. Sometimes, we get uncomfortable about delivering challenging messages and may become tempted to stretch the truth or, as they say, "tell a little white lie." This may be perceived as the easy way out, but in reality is the beginning of a complex web. It has the capacity to rob you of inner peace, destroy trust others have placed in you, and interfere with the ability to build relationships.
When faced with difficult conversations, one must be courageous about telling the truth and standing up for what is right and honorable - even when it's not popular. For instance, in the earlier days of my career, I had to say no to loan requests that were not in the best interest of the borrower or the bank and then honestly explain the reasons for the answer. While it was unpleasant news that may have squelched a client's dream, it was the right thing to do. Years later, some of those same business owners are still clients and successfully running companies, partially (I hope) as a result of hard but honest feedback and mostly because of their response in redirecting their companies with improved focus that was rewarded by positive results.
As my career continues and leadership responsibilities become broader in scope, honesty comes into play with a larger group starting with investors and employees and extending to clients and communities. After years in the industry, I have had lots of practice with courageous conversations. Some, exciting like the message about the future vision for the company and how to take initiative, expand our learning, increase production, and enhance our performance in order to achieve the vision. Some not as much fun – like debriefing with a Relationship Manager after losing a client and exploring what might we have done better.
In all cases, however, it is best to have open and honest conversations with full transparency. Our words are a reflection of who we are, so aspire to speak courageously (as needed) and humbly tell the truth (at all times) even when the truth hurts.
Consistently being truthful creates trust and builds relationships which are 2 of life's greatest treasures. Words spoken are words remembered. Anything less than the truth demands to be hidden and is by its very nature a form of darkness. Honesty shines like the midday sun.