What the Paula Deen controversy can teach us about truth and consequences (Part 2 of 2)

Tell me lies, Tell me sweet little lies, (Tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies)

Oh, no, no you can’t disguise, (You can’t disguise, no you can’t disguise)

Tell me lies, Tell me sweet little lies

Fleetwood Mac’s Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about the importance of approaching even life’s major events with the same level of integrity one would bring to more mundane everyday situations.

Of course, when you consider the negative fallout for Paula Deen after she had responded honestly to a series of deposition questions, it would be natural to pause to ask oneself when is honesty not the best policy?  Or to put it another way, when is it better to say nothing and hope for the best?

I found it interesting that a number of arm chair legal experts made the suggestion that Deen would have better served everyone’s best interests   ̶   including her own   ̶   had she fallen back on an “I can’t recall” selective memory response.  After all they reasoned, not being able to recall saying or doing something is not the same as having to take the fork in the road “truth or lie” route.

While each one of us must choose our own path when confronted with such choices, in the end it is what we think and feel and more importantly believe that will inevitably govern our actions.  Even though it may be tough to live by the edict that what is popular isn’t always right, and what is right isn’t always popular, I believe that being able to live with oneself in terms of our career and life decisions cannot be ignored.  Certainly the following Personal Reflection from my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand delves into this internal conflict in greater detail.

A Moment of Personal Reflection . . .

It is amazing how we all have a memory of something we did in which we at least to a certain extent continue to feel if not regret, then at least a disquieting sense that we could have done better.

From a personal standpoint, my moment of ruffled ease centers around a promise made but not kept.

The scheduling of a 2-day seminar gave me a couple of extra hours to spare before having to leave for the airport.  It was the Friday of a very busy week and of course I was eager to get home and relax over the weekend.

As I was packing up at the conclusion of my seminar, I was approached by a number of people who, while not included in the original session, asked if I might be willing to stay a little longer at the end of the day and provide them with advice on how they could better brand themselves.

Having a couple of hours, and always happy to help individuals who take the initiative to want to learn, I agreed to give them an impromptu mini-seminar before leaving for the airport.

Unfortunately, and in the intervening minutes between their request and assembling everyone, the HR person through whom the main seminar had been arranged indicated that she was ready to drive me to the airport.

When I had informed her of the employees who had approached me to spend time with them, and that I had agreed to stay longer, she said that I should not worry about it because they were not high enough in the organization to benefit from my expertise.  She then insisted, despite my assertions that I had agreed to stay, that we leave for the airport right then.  In addition, she expressed the need to get some personal coaching due to a challenging situation.

Against my better judgment I relented, and after letting the employees know that I would now not be staying, I left with the HR person.

A few weeks later, when I reviewed the attendee comments for the session with the same individual from HR, she also informed me that some employees had publicly expressed disappointment that I had left for the airport rather than honor my promise to stay and talk with them.

I was   ̶   and to this day, still am   ̶   disappointed in myself for not staying with the employees as I had promised.  I had in essence gone back on my word and in the process damaged my trust relationship with them.

I, of course, agreed to visit the company again and a few weeks later delivered a free seminar to the disappointed employees.

But here is the point of this story . . .

Often we will encounter a situation in which for whatever reason we will feel pressure to go against our instincts and even our word as a means of diffusing conflict.  It is at crossroads such as these that we must step up to the plate and remain true to ourselves and the words or promises that both build and maintain the trust relationship we have with others.

While it would have been easy for me to deflect by saying that the only reason I left was because of the pressure placed on me by the HR person, the fact is that when everything was said and done, I and I alone am responsible for my own actions.

In this context it is important to always remember . . . say what you mean, and mean what you say!

I am certain that Paula Deen may have felt a certain degree of discomfort in honestly answering the questions regarding her words and actions.  After all in today’s enlightened world of political correctness, she had to know   ̶   at least to a certain degree   ̶   that she would create a level of disappointment with the public, including her followers.

But unlike my situation, where I could correct the error by giving a free seminar and ultimately delivering on my promise, Deen cannot un-ring the proverbial bell in terms of taking back her words.

At the conclusion of Part 1, I posed a number of questions we all would do well to ask ourselves.

What were your answers then and, after reading today’s post are they still the same?

Finally, what can (and will) you take away from the Paula Deen story?

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