This post covers the fourth of six leadership mistakes and how to fix them. In the past few weeks, we’ve covered excuse-making, bad manners, and ego problems; now it’s time to talk about lying.

When people are found out as liars, the word spreads like wildfire. This can literally destroy your career. All you have to do is be caught in a lie one time and it can erase all the trust established with your team, your peers, and your clientele.

Lying takes lots of different forms. Lying by omission can be tough because it’s easy to tell yourself that leaving something out isn’t exactly lying—but you’d be lying to yourself. Gossip is toxic, too. Typically, gossip = truth+resentment+judgment. It becomes a mutated form of the truth, which can have the same effect as a deadly lie.

Not keeping your word can destroy your career. Missed deadlines, late deliveries, forgotten agreements—they all add up to a reputation for unreliability. You will be seen as untrustworthy. Not following through is similar not keeping your word. Doing what you said you would do is Integrity 101.

As a boss, playing favorites is also dishonest. The lie is: “I treat everyone fairly. Everybody has an equal opportunity.” Passive aggression is being nice to someone’s face while plotting their demise. This is lying to people’s faces.

How to Fix Lying

Unfortunately, for some people, lying might be a problem with their core personality. For pathological liars or sociopaths, this basically can’t be fixed. But the majority of us can change.

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do Some of the best business advice I ever got was from my friend Wilma Westin: “The most important thing for anyone in business to do is to always, always, always keep your word.” Following this advice can get you a reputation that money can’t buy.
  2. Take an inventory In Doubledare Academy, we use a tool called Daily Trust Scorecard. It takes you through a checklist of behaviors that contribute to trust and give you a way to keep track of yourself to understand whether or not you are behaving in a trustworthy way.
  3. Do not gossip This is a tough one, but especially when it comes to business, it’s essential. Don’t allow it to occur on your watch. You might think that by not contributing, you’re somehow innocent, but being silent in the presence of gossip is tacit approval. What is picked up instantly by the gossips (probably at the subconscious level) is that you cannot be trusted because you aren’t defending the person who is not in the room. Your people need to believe, “My boss has my back whether I’m there or not.” It’s a key ingredient of trust.

You probably remember from childhood that one lie leads to another. Assuming you’re not a pathological liar, you know lies will come back to haunt you. They always come to light. If lying is an issue for you, then do whatever it takes to nip it in the bud: Don’t play favorites, reign in the passive-aggression, and speak the truth. And if you can’t do it on your own, it’s probably time for some outside help.

photo credit: Elton Lin 2007-03-01_09-44-24 via photopin (license)