A fib is not a lie. But it’s not quite the truth either. And we all are sometimes guilty – fibbing has taken over the work world. Millions of little white lies bounce around cubicles and office spaces every day. No, I am not talking about criminal activity or any kind of fraud. I am talking about fibs that might make you less successful – or not.
At a time when fact checking and fake news has entered the parlance, fibbing seems to be at an all-time high.
Think not? Here are a few fibbing test questions: Have you ever put a few “extra” words in your resume? Is the number of followers on LinkedIn that you claim more than what your page actually displays? Have you ever been on a project team that was a total disaster but you told everyone the team was on time and on budget? Have you ever tried to sell something for the company that you knew was a piece of junk but you didn’t say anything?
These are just a few examples of the fibs that can fly around the workplace and make for days of worry that you will get caught. And you don’t need to see an employee manual or business book to see that fibbing is generally not okay.
Why do we do it?
- The deadline schedule and your personal schedule are not quite in sync, but you can get it done over the weekend. FIB: “We are right on schedule but if we wait until next week, we can get more people in the room.”
- Others need to be protected and you want to do them a favor. FIB: “He/she worked their ass off on this project.”
- You missed something, didn’t do something or just didn’t want to do something and now you need to cover your ass. FIB: “That request must have gone into my Spam folder, you will have it tomorrow.”
- The truth of the situation is worse than the fib, like when no one is buying a junk product. FIB: “The customers are slow to adapt.”
- Others don’t recognize the real value you created and you crave the recognition. FIB: “The degree of difficulty on this was a ten and I doubt any one else could have done it.”
- Pretending to be something we are not in order to impress. FIB: “I provided a solution to the talent problems using a proprietary derivative method through Black-Scholes and flux capacitors.”
- Saying “No” would just cause more problems so we say yes even though we don’t mean it. FIB: “No problem, I will put it on the list and get to it”.
- The job isn’t done and we need to share the blame with others. FIB: “It’s been in procurement (IT, HR) for months.
Okay, I fibbed, there are not 10 reasons, there are only eight that I can think of, but there are actually millions of reasons why fibs happen in the workplace. I am sure you have a few to add. Go ahead.
But I hope you don’t add too many. Fibbing is neither good for you or the organization. A culture of fibbing is terrible for morale and will have everyone wondering what is true and what is not. For your career, being known as a fibber will have people avoiding you and will eventually impact your career progression and reputation. You will get caught. Lastly, it is a miserable feeling to be wondering who knows the truth and can sniff out a fib.
In short, DON’T FIB. Just remember stories like “Pinocchio”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” because those fibs can add up.
I know a university president who wears green socks every day. Whether he is in a meeting or playing on the faculty basketball team, he wears those green socks. He says the socks are his brand and, indeed, they may be, but so what? How are green socks as a personal brand helping him or his institution?
In another situation a young woman was dressed for an interview wearing a bright scarf around her neck. It was a nice scarf but it was hot and not quite right for an interview. She believed that the scarf would ensure that she stood out in the eyes of the interviewer. She said she wears a colorful scarf every day and it is her personal brand. I am sure the scarf did make her stand out, but in what direction? Good or bad? Did the scarf help her “nail” the interview?
Which is it? Are socks and scarves a personal brand or do they make you stand out in a weird way? The answer is both.
The green socks are the trademark of the university president but he needs to have happy faculty, thriving students and so many other things hanging on his brand. The woman in the scarf better have more things to discuss with the interviewer than her scarf.
Cool socks and colorful scarves are fine and can make you stand out and be memorable. But standing out based on socks and scarves is not enough.
A personal brand is about you, not your socks. A brand needs content. Steve Jobs wore a black mock turtleneck as part of his brand but he had a lot of other accomplishments to back up his brand. James Bond has a cool Aston Martin as part of his brand but there are other skills and abilities he can show. Lady Gaga’s brand includes wild hair and outfits but she can sing too!
Content doesn’t have to be in the form of music or business acumen to build a brand. Personal brands can be built through an online presence through blogs, websites, tweets, and any social media outlet. A successful brand is consistent – photos, messages and content that help you create perceptions about you.
Sometimes you need to spell it out. One of my favorite brand builders is venture capitalist Stewart Alsop. He describes himself and lives up to it in everything he does.
Stewart Alsop: Venture capital investor looking for hard-technology companies. Fisherman. Foodie. Art & craft junkie.
When you are considering building a personal brand, green socks or a scarf may be a good start but there better be something more than that. A successful brand, once built, should help you achieve your goals in a fun way. A brand should also let you be yourself.
Get out there in traffic! Networking is the key to a successful career! Go to industry events! Never miss an opportunity for a coffee or lunch where a connection might be made! Networking is now an official part of any meeting agenda. Events are advertised (and priced) based on networking opportunities. A network is the new currency.
Sure, networking is important and highly encouraged but a network has not replaced skills or experience. A focus on developing a strong set of skills in places that matter might be more important than a network. But a network never hurt, so the next time you are invited to an event, consider these tips:
- Go. You won’t build a network by sitting at home watching NCIS reruns.
- Never sit next to an empty chair, or put your briefcase or bag on the seat next to your own.
- Have some questions in mind before you arrive. Not, “Do you come here often?” or “What is your sign?” Do not ask about Donald Trump.
- Look up. Keep your nose out of your phone. Others won’t interrupt your interaction with your device.
- Bring business cards. Give out at least twenty. Make sure others can read what’s on your card.
- Collect business cards from others. If others don’t have cards, ask how you can reach them.
- Introduce strangers you just met at the event to each other, even if you don’t remember their names. Ask, “Have you two met?”
- Notice something on others and make a positive comment. “Cool glasses, nice bow tie, interesting name, like the throw back saddle shoes.” You get the idea.
- Thank the host. Someone organized the event, find the host and say thanks.
- Don’t get drunk. Repeat, don’t get drunk.
- Don’t arrive too late; you will miss the rhythm of the event.
- If you want to meet someone, ask someone to make the introduction. Just like LinkedIn.
- Follow up with notes and emails to those that you met at the event.
- Ask those who you want to be a part of your network to get a coffee soon. One event may not be enough.
- Ask people if you can help them, even if you are not sure what that might mean.
- Find the best networkers and follow them around. They are easy to spot.
- Take a risk and meet the most famous person in the room. Don’t take a selfie unless you are sure it’s OK. Never mind, don’t take a selfie.
- Go with someone. Get competitive with them and see who can make the most connections.
- Don’t spend all of your time with people you already know.
- Smile. Be happy. Be optimistic. Look forward to the next networking event in a new place with a different crowd.