Every single day your employees must choose between doing something on-time and with precision or postponing that task and doing it "less than perfect" to make a deadline. If they choose the second path, the next natural step is trying to get away with it.
There is an old consulting saying: "A dead fish rots from the head down." That means you, as the business owner, set the tone for your organization. Your employees and your managers are looking to you for cues on how to behave.
High performing businesses and individuals crave accountability. In a world without accountability, low performers thrive and drag down everyone else.
So, how did you react if an employee tells you a little white lie to try and get away with not delivering as expected? Set an example yourself. Here are five steps you can take.
1. Be careful with commitments. I commit only to things I can control -- behaviors not outcomes. Only when I am 100 percent sure I can hit a commitment, will I make one. I expect all of my employees to do the same, but I have to lead by example.
2. Require open communication. At my company, we instituted a bonus system based on effective and, more importantly, complete and transparent client communication. Weekly communication forms are required for all clients and training is provided on how to use these forms to discuss a mistake.
3. Shine a light on everything. Don't keep secrets, and secrets won't be kept from you. A culture of transparency is less likely to invite your employees to be dishonest in order to protect themselves. Measure important behaviors and make sure everyone knows you are watching these behaviors by announcing some of your findings publicly, both the good and the bad with an emphasis on the good.
4. Be open with mistakes. I make mistakes all the time and I let everyone know about them. I want my staff to feel comfortable and confident that when they make a mistake, it is OK. What is not acceptable is covering up your mistake. Learn, grow and don't make the same mistake twice.
5. Hold liars accountable. I just had to fire a fabulous person because of a lie. While we do not disclose the nature of firings, it was obvious to the rest of the staff that some ethical rule must have been broken. That sent professional ripples through my company and hopefully a signal that lying is not tolerated.
I am not certain that these things will work for everyone, but I am certain that trying to eliminate "white lies" will lead to a more accountable organization, and I am certain that a more accountable organization helps move business forward.