I first heard Warren Buffet speak in person 20 years ago. He had a standard speech he would give on how to be successful in business.
I’ll never forget what he said he looked for when hiring an executive to run one of his many businesses.
“You want to hire someone that’s honest, smart, and hardworking. You want to look for those traits in that order because if they’re dishonest, you’d strongly prefer that they be dumb and lazy.”
As you might imagine, he got a laugh out of his audience with that line.
(Disclosure: I’m a shareholder in Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway.)
As I’ve had many years to reflect on Buffet’s words of wisdom, I’ve come to appreciate their value even more than I did at that moment — particularly his comment about looking for honest people.
Honesty comes in two forms.
The first form of dishonesty is lying, cheating, and stealing.
Does someone try to convince you that 2 + 2 = 83 when they know full well that 2 + 2 = 4?
Does someone play fair with you, or do they try to gain an advantage over you through trickery?
Does someone steal from you when you aren’t looking?
The other form of dishonesty comes from whether your words match your actions, and whether your actions match your words.
This form is more about congruence rather than malice or intent to deceive.
If someone says, “I will be there,” do they actually show up? Do their words match their actions?
If someone says, “That is important to me,” do they actually spend time on what they said was important to them? Do their actions match their words?
When you interact with someone who exemplifies both forms of honesty (especially over long periods of time), this engenders trust and reliability.
When you show someone that you practice both forms of honesty, it engenders their trust and ability to rely on you.
When I tell someone whom I’ve known for years, “Hey, you really should meet X person,” those years' worth of me never letting them down prompts them to meet X person solely because I said so with no further justification needed.
That’s the power of high-trust relationships.
As you progress further and further into your career, high-trust relationships become an incredible asset and the lack of such becomes a liability.
This is in large part because honesty (in all its forms), reliability, and consistency are in short supply today.
If you want to become a more highly-valued part of your team, invest in building relationships. It’s one way to possess more gravitas and be taken more seriously.
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