Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is honesty suicide?

Thomas Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer-prize winning op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," has a line in his column this morning: "Honesty, we are told, is suicidal in politics."

That made me wonder if honesty is suicidal in agencies. And with clients.

Last night I had a meeting with the President and the CEO of the client I toil on. They signed off on five cuts, but had an issue with one of them. There was a jump in the cut from a medium shot to a close-up. The CEO felt it was jarring and disruptive.

I have a good relationship with these guys. I've worked on their business for about two years--day in and day out--and have done nothing but come through. Along the way, and I don't say this to sound bombastic, I have helped guid their business and helped them coalesce their vision for the company.

The CEO mentioned his issue with the cut and then said, "Do you think I'm wrong?"

"Yes," I answered. "I've never lied to you and I'm not lying now."

"Ok," the CEO conceded. "I'm ok, then."

Here's my point.

Being blunt and honest is one of the hardest things you can do in the business.

To get through the day without bullshitting yourself or your clients.

Honesty takes work. Because in the words of the great fictional character Sammy Glick, "Why tell the truth when you can lie."

But honesty works.

Especially if you've been honest enough to have earned trust.

PS. If you haven't read Budd Schulberg's classic novel "What Makes Sammy Run," you owe yourself that favor. It follows the career of Sammy Glick whose personal philosophy is summed up by this line: "Going through life with a conscience is like driving your car with the brakes on."

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