If you’ve been following the fall of Jonah Lehrer, the bestselling author and New Yorker writer and serial fabulist who got caught making up Bob Dylan quotes, you might think his tale has properly sensitized you to the perils of stretching the truth.
A growing percentage of all interactions take place through — or in the presence of — digital devices that preserve a record of what happened. By interactions, I don’t just mean meeting people or buying something. I also mean opening the door to your office, driving your car, using your train pass, and walking your dog.
Like it or not, we’re moving into the era of Extreme Truth, when the cold, hard facts become obvious. If you take a longer lunch than everyone in your company, the security records will show that your lunch hour averaged 96.2 minutes in July.
Employers already routinely search Facebook posts to avoid hiring those people foolish enough to post “Still drunk; blowing off work” on their accounts.
In another year or two, people will start recording meetings and even casual discussions on their smart glasses. This will present a problem, because in my experience nearly everyone exaggerates, glosses over details, or says different things to different people. What will happen when your client gets to compare the four versions you related about why your work veered so far from her creative brief?
Most of us are not nearly ready to face the truth, but technology is forcing us to do so. To protect your career and keep it moving forward, you’d be well advised to start practicing Extreme Truth now. For example, here are three ways to prepare yourself for what’s coming next:
• Act as though everything you say and do is being recorded.
• If you get caught misrepresenting the truth, come 100% clean immediately. You will have only one shot to make things right.
• Follow the brilliantly concise advice of Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in Extreme Trust: Honesty As a Competitive Advantage…Do things right. Do the right thing. Proactively.
Moving forward, your personal brand needs to be about full disclosure. Strive to never say or do anything that you wouldn’t want disclosed to everyone you know or will ever meet.
To keep this in the front of your mind, you might try this: imagine that one day you will need to go through the type of security check we reserve for the short list of Vice Presidential candidates. That’s exactly what the future is going to be like, so start getting ready now.