My friend, John Havens and the fantastic Shel Holtz, have written a book on Tactical Transparency, due out in November. I’m eager to read the book, not only because it’s by two people I know and respect, but also because it’s a subject that I hear more about every day, especially when it comes to election or financial news.
My mom used to tell me not only that honesty was the best policy, but that I was so bad at lying, it wasn’t even worth trying. Eventually, I decided the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) principal really worked out best in the long run. I’ve learned to tell people the truth in ways they can accept it, but honesty it is, and hiding the truth is always a disaster.
This has certainly been born out regarding the current national financial crisis. I’ve suspected for almost a year now, by the number of homes for sale, the number of local establishments going out of business or heading towards trouble, and the number of people in mid-level management positions at local banks losing their jobs, that all of this pointed firmly towards recession. And as the situation has worsened, the politicians saying that a recession could not possibly be headed our way seemed to be denial or naivite under the best of circumstances.
There’s a couple of great episodes of This American Life that explain alot of what’s happened with the mortgage crisis, in case you don’t quite understand how the selling and reselling of mortgages and how lending scads of money to people without a concern in the world about their ability to repay it has eviscerated our economy. NPR has also come out with the Planet Money blog and podcast, explaining what’s going on, and how the SEC failed to do its job, leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess.
I mention this because it’s been the lack of honesty and transparency that’s led to many of these problems, as well as a ton of magical thinking on the part of those who just didn’t want to take a broader look at how things were starting to crumble, long before the crisis actually hit.
I hope John and Shel’s book helps many people see how important honesty and transparency is, even if it’s not always fun and cheerful to tell the truth. But as I have always told clients- I can deal with the truth- I can’t deal with facts I don’t know. The truth, even when it’s ugly, is so much better than illusion, especially when the time comes to pay the bill.