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Sophistry is a fast-track to losing business because you damage your reputation, brand, and trustworthiness.

Sophistry is the use of fallacious arguments with the intent to deceive. The word comes from the ancient Greek word sophistes, which means an expert or wise person. The Sophists were teachers and speakers whom Plato described as sham philosophers. The characterization stuck.

Today’s sophists are infomercial hustlers, charlatans, and Pyramid schemers who want you to believe something that’s not true. Use this one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategyfollow this checklist to become a creative thinkerinvest in this [silver bullet] scheme, etc.

Good people and organizations can fall into this trap, too. There’s a seductive lure to sugar-coat bad news so that you can ease the pain and anxiety of change or difficulties. It’s a short walk from good intentions toward manipulative “noble lies” and cringe-worthy sophistry. 

People see through the smokescreen right away. No one knows the people like the prince, said Machiavelli, and no one knows the prince like the people.

How do you feel when someone uses words designed to give you a false impression or manipulate your behavior? 

I’ve been a professional member of the National Speakers Association for a couple of years. I’ve gotten good value from the organization and its members, and I’ve given value in return. 

I received an email recently from them notifying me that they are “upgrading” my membership. Oh, that’s good newslet me check it out. The professional speaking business has been hit hard by the pandemic, so I was surprised that NSA would upgrade benefits. That’s pretty awesome.

It turns out that the only upgrade is in the membership dues. They are simply charging more and offering upsells. SlimyI feel like I need to shower

I’ve got no qualms whatsoever about NSA charging higher membership fees and upsells. I have huge qualms about the sophistry. I’m certainly not going to upgrade, and I might cancel altogether based on how they respond to my inquiry.

Lose trust: lose business. Build trust: build business. These are the simplest ratios you need to know, and you don’t need an MBA to understand them. 

I wonder if someone with an MBA approved that deceptive email?

Action steps:
1. Get an outside view so that you avoid drinking your own bathwater. Surround yourself with trusted people who tell you what you need to hear.

2. Speak plainly. Simplicity and clarity boost your credibility and improve the likelihood that what you say is what people hear. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

3. Empower people to take remedial action. Ritz-Carlton is famous for giving its front-line employees the ability to fix problems and make restitution on the spot. Oftentimes, you cannot control the problems you face, but you can control how you face them.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal quoted a tech expert who predicted that technology would soon replace mid-level leaders. 

After all, he suggested, if technology can monitor employee productivity, what’s the point of middle management?

There are two matters to consider before you jump on the bandwagon.

First, your apps will have a hard time addressing one of the biggest productivity drains that companies face: presenteeism.

Presenteeism is the practice of being at work and doing things to look busy but are not boosting your mission and impact.

More importantly, productivity apps do not inspire people to contribute their best to your team’s success.

CEOs make a big mistake in believing that the role of mid-level leaders is to make sure people are doing their jobs. 

If that’s the case, then you’ve either hired the wrong people or failed to gain their buy-in.

The first line team leaders and mid-level managers make or break your culture, productivity, and performance.

This level is where people gain buy-in or not. 

This level is where people decide whether they will do only the minimum or contribute their best and most authentic selves to your mission.

Gallup reports that 67% of Americans report being unengaged at work — that’s 67% presenteeism.

Your top-quality first line and mid-level leaders turn that number around so that people are spending two-thirds of their time or more contributing their best selves.

You will inspire people to contribute their best, willingly, to your team’s success by practicing these six habits.

First, be authentic so that you lead as your best self, prune away average habits that hold you back, and build the right team around you. 

Second, follow the three core principles of trustworthinessrespect, and stewardship so that people believe in you, bring out the best in each other, and your team gets better each day.

Next, practice empathy so that you can see yourself and your team through the eyes of others and stay ahead of the competition, avoid blindsides, and bring out the best in each teammate.

Fourth, take responsibility so that you can promote innovation and sensible risk-taking and hold people accountable for results and values … without feeling like a jerk.

Fifth, connect the why so that everyone knows exactly how their work contributes to success. Once this happens, your team will do what’s right, the right way, without you having to watch.

Finally, multiply your experiences. Personal experience is the best teacher of leadership. It is also the school of hard knocks, and the tuition can be costly. Learning from others lets you gain many lifetimes of experience very quickly to make sound decisions and avoid expensive mistakes.