"To Be Honest" by Ron Carucci saves Corporate America (from itself)
Updated: Sep 29
There are over 4,000 religions today, with over 7.5 billion humans prescribing towards some sort of higher moral authority or divine guidance on how best to live. Many different interpretations, practices, and rituals exist - but all bear a common theme. Do good, and you shall be rewarded. Behave poorly, and you shall be punished. To communicate their respective codes of conduct, every religion has a bible, book, or guiding manuscript.
Our corporations have standards as well, and while the purpose of these firms may vary dramatically - the main tenets of leadership deliver a universal truth. How you treat people determines the success, reputation, and legacy of the company you're building and the customers you support. If there were to be a singular guiding document that all of corporate America would be wise to embrace - it would be Ron Carucci's "To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice, and Purpose." Ron has essentially created a mobile masters class for employees and managers who are no longer accepting the status-quo of half-truths, and commonplace deception that toxic corporate dishonesty proliferates.
'When organizations are badly broken, when the whole is less than the sum of the parts, leaders need courage and conviction to turn the pieces whole again. Interestingly, it's worth pointing out that the word integrity stems from the Latin derivative integritas, meaning "a state of being whole and undivided."' - Ron Carucci
20 years ago, nobody could have predicted how the flow and speed of information would shape the global landscape today. Along with dramatic changes in how the world does business, it's wishful thinking that our human processing centers (brain) would have exponentially increased in parallel capability as well (sadly, they haven't). So what does this mean about our time to evaluate jobs, people, opportunities, and the truth? It means that the time we have to make a decision based on the truth, is greatly decreased and thus it's becoming increasingly difficult to spot honest information through the vast expanse and noise of corporate misinformation. There is hope though (if you're up for a good challenge).
Ron's book first asks us to embrace the quest for truth on a personal level, and then take that credibility to our corporations and communities. Given how broken our trust systems are in media, government, and corporate leadership - it's best to address issues in our own backyard first, so that we can more effectively serve as an example for others in the workforce to grow and flourish by being an staunch advocate for honest business practices.
Throughout his career, Ron has worked with every CEO, CFO, COO, and stakeholder imaginable. He doesn't hold back or sugarcoat the real dilemmas an organization is facing. This often makes for uncomfortable conversations. Thankfully, real growth comes from executives who are wise enough to bring Ron on board to right the ship (before it sinks). These countless interviews and case studies from his life's work and client support at his leadership firm Navalent, were put through a finely tuned scientific process with the help of IBM's Artificial Intelligence platform, Watson. The result is a breakthrough piece of work that brings honesty into the most important final frontier that any corporate culture would be wise to prioritize. "To Be Honest" is over 261 pages of rich insight, but for the purposes of our analysis - we'll quickly discuss four major themes:
Creating the illusion
Closing the say-do gap
Re-evaluate your echo chamber
Acknowledge your hypocrisy
It seems like corporate leadership has become quite a hot topic ever since the employment fallout from the pandemic. Many who were gainfully employed and working from home were able to take stock of the firms they worked at, who they worked for, and what values they wanted to guide their work experience forever more. The following dynamics should quickly prove beneficial in your own journey to inject the vaccine of truth into your everyday life.
Creating the Illusion
Imagine the gold rush of 1848, as word spread like wildfire concerning promise of a place that was yielding some of the greatest treasure known to man. 300,000 people moved to California and helped create a great boom for the US Economy. There was no internet at this time, and no way to tweet an update to get everyone out to the west coast. Just snail-mail and word of mouth.
Fast forward to today, where every company is essentially a media company (shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk). You can create your image or firm's likeness into anything that a videographer (assistant with a cell phone camera), a graphic designer (intern with access to Canva), or corporate consultant (someone close to the family) can write up in a press release. You can advocate for any cause, tell the world you're doing big things for the community, or maybe you want to stage some pictures with the interns to show how invested you are in youth development. But what if all of this, was for show? What if the reality was nowhere near what you display? When this happens - it only keeps people looking for a check around for a short time, and drives the rest of the great talent away.
"Unfortunately, the pursuit of these wonderful results has many companies devolving into "purpose washing" whereby they work hard to create the appearance of purpose. Marketers are pulling ever lever they can to put halos over their brands and companies, spinning a narrative of goodwill." - Ron Carucci
Everyone today seems obsessed with signaling some sort of virtue, in hopes that potential candidates resonate with their selfless service. Again, it's the signaling that clearly shows a lack of honesty with regards to execution and intention. The people who work daily for the duplicitous leadership either must become numb to the fake marketing to avoid losing their jobs, or take a stand against what is nothing more than a play to get attention that they don't deserve for claiming to do things - they simply don't do. Ron gives many great examples of what you can do to avoid such a calamity, and his case studies are the canary in a coal mine of truth.
"When it comes to purpose, you can't "fake it 'til you make it." You either mean it or you don't, and if you don't, people will see right through it." - Ron Carucci
Closing the Say-Do Gap
We've all probably seen the brazen audacity of an egotistical manager who always has to make a very personal case that "they aren't fake." You know the type that as soon as they're challenged or questioned as it relates to following their own rules or promises to staff - they lash out in very hostile attacks against the employees who had the gaul to enforce what leading by example, should actually look like.
"The implications are clear - if you're full of it, everyone will know it, and your organization will underperform." - Ron Carucci
Now the expectation is that not every directive will be possible to complete, or that every plan will be able to be executed. This isn't that. This is a very simple understanding that you simply must follow the core values that you boldly proclaim upon the workforce. How you treat your staff, the policies you have in place for equitable distribution of those directives, and most importantly the consistent application that your firm's rules have upon your own conduct. If the company states that they don't accept a certain type of behavior, yet those in leadership seem exempt from these rules - a massively negative impact increasingly continues to befall the organization until the issue is resolved and trust and honesty is restored within the ranks of those who run the show.
Re-evaluate your echo chamber
A functional corporate environment isn't a social media algorithm. It's a very real collection of different people and backgrounds. Every viewpoint is valid and they operate under a collective framework of acceptable behavior and communicated customs. The more variance and viewpoints, the better the end result. Conversely when the firm creates a monolith, the foundation becomes highly susceptible to cracks as the culture becomes poisonously homogeneous in ideology and operation.
The more we seek the same, or only push for validation of our own narrow views - we lose. Ask anyone who has served on the board of a successful defense contracting company around Washington DC and they'll tell you that without contrarian viewpoints, there's no iterative improvement. If everyone is either silent, or nods in agreement with an overbearing and underwhelming board chair - then what's the point of really having anyone else there?
"If you don't have people around you who comfortably and routinely offer differing views without fear of retribution or estrangement, you're in trouble - it means there is critical information you aren't getting about decisions you are making, relationships you are participating in, and priorities you are pursuing." - Ron Carucci
When leadership runs out of ways to look at problems differently, they simply default to the same narrative, story, or messaging that might have worked a long time ago - but now has no place and must go.
Acknowledge your Hypocrisy
The mirror. It's your friend when the chips are high, but when they're low it's the first thing that makes you want to go! Humility is often an important practice to embrace during this period of self-evaluation. It's like going to the gym in many ways. You know exactly how much you keep that promise to yourself to stay in shape. You know what you eat and how many times you workout. Unfortunately, when you aren't honest with yourself - all of a sudden you find a Diet Coke, large pizza, and chicken wings at your front door. Not so much the fitness guru now, are you? These moments you don't share on your Instagram, because people would know you have fallen off course. Accountability is quite the private game, when the end result is shame.
Ron makes some very strong points throughout the book to say that you can't be an advocate, warrior, voice, or fighter for anything that you aren't truthfully and honestly supporting yourself in real life. If you're a Diet Coke fan, you'll get this. You know when the movie theater says they only have Diet Pepsi, and you really don't want it - but you order it anyway? That's a very innocent example of what it means to compromise your loyalties, just to get a different type of bubbly soda. We doubt that anyone would call you a sellout, or hypocrite - but you know that you took another route other than the one you would have obligated yourself to, were it not for the Diet Coke drought.
"You can't march up and down public streets advocating for those you believe to be marginalized in some way then marginalize anyone who disagrees with you." - Ron Carucci
So if you find yourself thirsty for the truth, simply take quiet time with yourself to review your standards and then imagine that if you didn't follow them, your failure to do so became broadcasted on every major news network, publication, and social media platform. Envision the embarrassment of being exposed for your hypocrisy. Now there are very few people on earth (narcissistic sociopaths) that can exist without such a conscience - but for the rest of the world, that internal voice is a decent guide to avoid major losses due to blind pride.
Audit your Honesty, Honestly
The four cornerstones of truth listed above are merely a starting point for you to understand the value that Ron's book "To Be Honest" brings to the corporate environment. If I were in the HR or development department at any firm - I would be handing these out to new hires on the first day with the intention of bringing honesty alive, as opposed to simply walking past a poster on the wall that tells everyone to be "intense" or have "integrity" without actually demonstrating or enforcing what that actually means.
Finally, Ron's book is an awesome wake up call. It's a cold plunge into the inconvenient truth of our own failures. It is also a flamethrower of hope in a hurricane of deception, that everyone in leadership needs to start embracing immediately. The world is facing a tremendous pandemic of misinformation, and a complete lack of trust. The strategies and tactics in his book are the blueprint to motivate and accelerate your personal quest for honesty - so you can bring your best self into the workplace everyday in a way that empowers true purpose and inspires real success.
Never forget - leading by example only happens when that example is truthful. To that end, please visit Amazon to pick up Ron's new book. (Disclaimer: no proceeds from sales benefits Trident Strategies).