Small Promises, Small Lies
People like to make big inferences from small bites of information. We prefer to judge others, especially leaders, on seemingly inconsequential actions, as opposed to waiting for the grand event.
For example, when a leader admits a small mistake, maybe one that is even out of view, it is sometimes seen as a bigger reflection of character than acknowledging a big mess that everyone can see. When it comes to judging a leader’s credibility, small carries a big punch.
When leaders offer small pledges and execute them faithfully, people take notice:
“I’ll send the report by 11 a.m.,” and they do.
“Count on me to call your client,” and they call.
“I’ll mention that at today’s meeting,” and they raise it as if on cue.
Leaders who frequently make small promises and keep them religiously are held in higher regard. Their credibility climbs with every delivered promise.
In contrast, a pattern of small lies does more damage to credibility than leaders realize. People wonder what else might be false when leaders stretch the limits of telling the whole truth.
“I’m waiting for compliance to sign off,” is a reasonable excuse … until the colleague waiting for an answer learns that compliance signed off days ago. Leaders who commonly “fib” to better position their actions and choices commonly fail to understand the consequences of how others see such small lies. We don’t trust leaders on the big things if they lie about the small things.
People make big inferences from small acts. The leap of judgment others make regarding small promises and lies has real teeth for how people trust or distrust leaders. It goes to prove that choices are never too small to make a difference.