I reckon we all tell a few white lies from time to time. I personally hold honesty as a key value, but I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to the little lies that just make things easier. And sometimes we tell ourselves and our colleague’s stories that bend the truth just a little to make ourselves feel better or less guilty.
A story I heard recently from someone I was collaborating with was “I did not get time to do that thing I promised”. I took this in good spirit and graciously allowed them more time on the task. But I know that they were telling themselves a story. The truth was, they did not make the task a priority. They had time – they just choose to use it on other things. And that is fine, because life is busy and complicated, and we are all human.
But I believe that when we tell the story that we did not have time, it externalises the blame. It makes it feel like we had no control and that circumstances were the cause. This is not about whose fault it was, but about people owning their work and their decisions. It is about taking ownership of our work and our commitments. It is about accountability.
In our current work situation (which for many is remote working, or a hybrid of home and office) it is essential that our teams have a culture of accountability. This starts with owning our work and our decisions. It may be uncomfortable to admit to someone that we prioritised other work over theirs, but sometimes this is just the way it must be. And by telling a more truthful story, we are creating an accountability mindset for ourselves as well as an accountability brand that others experience.
So, next time you start to tell someone a story about how busy you are, or how you did not have time, or how you have been meaning to get to something, pause and consider if there is a different story that might serve you better.