I am currently engaged in providing witness training to young people at University, and as we were going through the routines that a witness should undertake in preparation for and in delivering testimony, we had a discussion about the effect of failure to be well-presented, professional, articulate, truthful and evidently competent. One of the questions arising was: What are the consequences of failure in these areas?
It gave me to thinking – doesn’t the answer to this court-focused question apply to all roles in life? Of course, in our scenario we addressed how failures would negatively affect the quality and effectiveness of our evidence. If we appear in unkempt and ill-fitting clothing, how does the jury see us? If we are ill-informed about the case, and/or can’t explain our case in accordance with the rules, will anyone hear what we have to say? If we are caught in a lie – even one borne of a genuine misunderstanding, will we be believed? And if we mumble and say ‘So’ or ‘sort of’ or ‘like’ every three words, won’t that eventually be all that the jury hears?
At court, the effect of all those potential failings can be catastrophic – the guilty freed, the innocent convicted (it applies to both sides!), our reputation tarnished.
The question I have, therefore, is – why do we apply such deep thinking, preparation and motive to our professional lives, and rarely to our personal lives?
Aren’t the potential consequences as bad? Maybe even worse?
You wouldn’t answer a client back – but you snap at your spouse. You wouldn’t talk down to a co-worker (deserved as it may be), but you shout at your kids in desperation. You shave, dress and present yourself nicely on the job, but wear a dressing gown all day when at home.
Before you bite, there are times and even days when that last one is all you feel like doing, and I have been known to spend a few hours building up the motivation to get going. But if those behaviours, alternating between work and play are your default position, ask yourself whether your superb professional reputation would be sullied if people knew what you were like at home. And also ask yourself – which IS the real me?
And make sure that the one you think reflects the better you – is the one you choose to be as much of the time as possible.
You may take the view that people make allowances for lesser standards, or that they don’t know what you’re like off the clock so it doesn’t matter. Maybe.
But my experience is that people aren’t so easy-going when it comes to other people’s standards. And when you think they don’t know or don’t care – they usually find out, and they will enjoy letting you know that they know. And the work and opportunities they provide you will reflect that knowledge.
Reputation MATTERS. That may seem unjust, but it’s true.
I hope my students will take on board what I have taught them. They are good people. I hope that my example (suit, waistcoat) reflects well on me in class and they see that I am walking my talk, and so see that as a template for their day in court.
But I also hope that this impression is an accurate reflection of me as a congruent ‘whole’.
If not – I have some work to do.
For more on such philosophies, read The Three Resolutions, available HERE on Amazon.