Chapter 5 – Your Life and E.T.H.I.C.S.: A Banquet of Consequences!

“Each time you are honest and conduct yourself with honesty, a success force will drive you toward greater success. Each time you lie, even with a little white lie, there are strong forces pushing you toward failure.”
Joseph Sugarman • Entrepreneur

30. A Life. A Lie. A Legacy.

How would you respond, to this question, “Are you willing to lie?” Yes? No? It depends on the circumstances?

How might you answer, if the one asking the question is a current or prospective client or customer? And if you do lie, it is in this individual’s best interests. In the fall of 1986, I was confronted with this question. I call it a question versus a dilemma, because for me, lying is not an alternative.

When my client, a vice president of a nationally known corporation posed this question, I looked at him with surprise, as did the two other vice presidents with us. I paused and asked, “Al, when you say lie, what do you mean?”

He explained, that if I interviewed his salespeople to find out what was really on their minds, what was troubling them and what were their honest feelings about the executive team, I’d be in a better position to help management.”

I agreed. However, Al continued, “Jeff, they’ll really open up to you if you tell them the information is just for your ears, and you won’t share their feelings with us!”

I told him that the trust already developed between his people and me would be more than tarnished, it would be destroyed! Forever! The other two vice presidents sat silently, but nodded their heads in agreement. I further explained, that if we’re all to work together, it must be with the same underlying foundation of integrity intact. This commitment to integrity is so crucial to your success as a business professional, I’ve chosen to address it very early in Peak Your Profits.

Integrity: A non-negotiable

Integrity is based upon truth. Oscar Wilde said, “Truth is never pure, and rarely simple.” Truth indeed may not be simple, but the complexities of deceit and situational ethics are monumental. Remember, the greatest advantage of truth, is that it doesn’t require a good memory!

I was thankful that once my position was known—the apologetic vice president withdrew his suggestion. He realized lying, even when euphemistically defined as “creative research” was not a good idea. The other vice presidents agreed.

After leaving my client’s office, I began to reflect upon this experience. Ethics and honesty have always been and always will be the basic tenet by which I live and work. But I don’t offer this “true confession” to portray myself as a “paragon of principle” or “touter of truth,” but rather to emphasize the importance of truth, especially in a business relationship.

Several years ago, I received a call from a prospective client, Stephen. He said, “Jeff, you come highly recommended and I’d like you to work with my sales team.” I said, “Great! But first tell me more about your sales people and what you want to accomplish?” He did. And then I asked, “When is your meeting?” When he told me the date, I said, “That’s unfortunate, I already have a previous commitment. But let me be a resource, and recommend a friend of mine who’s another talented professional speaker, Frank Bucaro.” Stephen asked, “What does Frank speak on?” I said, “Business ethics.” To which Stephen responded, “Jeff, I have no use for him, I told you, these are salespeople!”

At that moment, I made the decision that I’d never pursue a future relationship with Stephen and his company. Philosophically, he and I were operating from a different integrity or values base. If my prospects, clients or customers opt to perform by another standard, that’s their decision. However, I’m not willing to be a “co-conspirator!”

Upon further analysis of my meeting with Al and the other two vice presidents, I realized that there was something else in jeopardy when Al suggested I lie—and that was my future relationship with this client.

All our previous communications had been open and honest. There was a wonderful give and take. I wasn’t perceived as some “smooth talkin’ sales guy” or conniving consultant, but instead as a professional who helped them solve their problems, improve their future and get results.

Earlier, I had conducted an extremely successful business-growth program for another division of this client’s company. At that workshop, one of the group vice presidents rose and declared, “Jeff not only shares these techniques and principles with you today, but he also practices and lives by them himself. That’s been apparent in our previous dealings with him.” I nodded a simple thank-you, but knew that he had given me the greatest compliment I had ever been paid in business.

Knowing, that’s how he and his company felt about me and my work, how could I “blow-it” with a casual agreement to lie?

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

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Jeff is a Hall of Fame speaker, best selling author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” If you hire speakers, please contact Sheryl Kantor at: 847.998.0688 or [email protected]. And visit to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff’s FREE e-letter, The Results Report. Jeff’s books include; Stop Whining! Start Selling!, (an Amazon Bestseller), and the new, revised 5th edition of the bestselling Peak Your Profits. You can also stay connected with Jeff via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @BlackmanResults