Truly I tell you.
Depending on which gospel you read, the oft-quoted line about a prophet never being accepted in their home town begins with the phrase truly I tell you. We'll come back to that.
When we think of the word prophet an image of predictor comes to mind: someone given to talking dreamily about a future state with little likelihood that that condition ever manifests. Prophecy is associated with divine interpretration or as a messenger of God.
But what if I told you that you are surrounded by potential prophets every day? And you could be one too.
Truly I tell you
You see, there is another interpretation of the word prophet, one that applies literally in the workplace. And that is “truth teller.” In fact, the appellation sooth-sayer literally means teller of the truth.
We need truth
The prophecy I speak of is not imbued with religious overtone or moral authority. I'm speaking of the ability to spread the truth – to share what is really going on about us every day – as an obligation of the prophet.
What's that got to do with business? Everything.
Humans infer, interpret, process, associate, relate, twist, turn and in a hundred other euphemisms distort their daily experience. Need a proof? How many times have you sat through a meeting and been amazed afterward at the various interpretations people left the room with?
See? People construct their own experinece often with tenuous regard for the facts.
Free your mind of pre-conceptions for a moment
Consider a workplace where people continously ask themselves what the truth is – the unadjusted, unspun, unvarnished truth – and what that means to the enterprise. Would that be refreshing? Yes, it would.
Probably a little scary too.
We are adept at massaging whatever the inconvenient truth is. Some of us are so adept at spin-doctoring we actually believe our own delusions (eg.: Karl Rove). Thus organizations waste enormous energy on mistruths taking themselves out of competitive position in so doing.
We need prophets
Prophets share the truth – things as they really are – without judgment or moral sanction. The prophet is what newscasting should be – relating the whole truth without framing so we can then think logically about it.
It is a competitive advantage to know the truth. It is a competitive advantage to operate in reality.
Yet remember the ancient warning: the prophet is never without honor – except in their home town.
The gospels remind us telling the truth in life often brings reaction and so it is in business as well.
Know that if sharing the truth is a value you hold others may be uncomfortable. So don't go forth in righteous indignation but in peace seeking clarity and dialog. It is not “your” truth, it is ours.
You can be a prophet – and serve the fundamental role so needed therein – without calling yourself one, or wearing biblical robes.
We need that function in society today.
Truly I tell you.