You sit down on an airplane.
A woman dressed in jeans and a bright pink flowery top sits down next to you.
She seems pleasant and funny and you have a good conversation where she tells you about all of the exciting things she is doing with her business. She tells you about the celebrities she is working with. She seems to have many celebrity friends who actually found her on social media (she lives in a small town in middle America) and they want to work with her because she is SO brilliant that they just have to hire her. She’s THAT good. So good in fact, that she tells you that she’s THAT good many times.
You are intrigued. This woman seems very interesting, but there’s something you can’t put your finger on. How did she do it? How did she become SO successful? Can she help you get there too? What does she know that you don’t?
You tell her about a great idea that you have that you think will help your business, but you haven’t told anyone else yet. She says that she will keep your secret in confidence and she gushes and tells you that your idea sounds amazing! She then tells you a couple of secrets she knows about some celebrities so that you feel like you’ve got the inside scoop. She tells you that she is very well connected and has worked with “big” brands and that she can probably get you on television because she has worked with the networks and she is doing BIG things…
Before the flight lands, you give her your email address and she asks if you are on Twitter. Of course you give her your Twitter handle, which she immediately tells you is not what it should be named. She tells you all kinds of social media tips and you leave the plane feeling excited that you met her. She sounds like she is a celebrity and she wants to help you. This could be huge!
In the digital age, it is easier and more important than ever to pay attention not to what people say, but to who they really are. Be proactive about researching your contacts. Google every single person you meet and interact with in business. Pay attention to the history behind blog posts and social media updates that people you are researching write. Also tune in carefully to what has been written about them. Are there discrepancies? Do they seem to get into “fights” on social media a lot? Do they claim to always be getting hacked or attacked? Do they say that they are so wonderful that others bully them out of jealousy? Do you want to do business with someone who attracts so much drama and then hides behind it with smoke and mirrors?
People who are movers and shakers are typically not the ones who are talking about the big things they are doing because they are too busy doing them.
For instance, if you got off the plane ride and went home to Google this woman above and you researched the celebrities that she told you had sought her out because of her online brilliance… what would you think if she had actually completely rewritten history? Would you want to work with her? Would you want potential clients to know that you were working with someone who lacks honesty and integrity? How could that affect your brand’s know, like and trust factor?
Taking it a bit further, what would you do if you found a video and multiple blog posts where the truth of how this woman connected with her celebrity client showed that not only was her story a complete lie, but she has actually lied about the same thing over and over in interviews and on her own website? And those people she warned you to “stay away from” on Twitter because they are bullies… what if this woman had actually been harassing them online? Did she forget to mention that she had been fired from the networks that she told you that she was working with? Maybe she wasn’t so brilliant after all?
It happens all the time. Smoke and mirrors.
So, how do you protect yourself?
Perform background checks, reputation checks and gut checks on any independent contractor that you work with on any level. This includes virtual assistants, web developers, social media managers, publicists, lawyers, coaches, consultants, etc. who are working with you on short term and long term projects.
Scrutinize bios and social media feeds, testimonials, experience and any digital activity that may reveal the actions that speak louder than fluffed up words.
Be wise about the claims that people make. Google their names with the titles, stories and people they claim to be associated with. Notice if there are inconsistencies with their stories and pay attention to them. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t put your finger on why you don’t trust someone.
You will find that these people who claim to be doing “BIG” things are typically talking a BIG story about what they wish was true, but in reality is not. You will also find that these people typically have a history of failed relationships/partnerships and a path of destruction that will most certainly affect your business if you don’t steer clear of it.
Smoke and mirrors come in many forms, but the truth is always there. You just have to be wise enough to protect your brand, smart enough to look for the truth and strong enough to walk away when you see that someone is not honest. If you find yourself wrapped up in a web of someone else’s smoke and mirrors, simply remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible and return to that safety of your own integrity. It isn’t always easy to walk away from people who show you the mirror of your dreams, but if their truth doesn’t reflect yours, it’s exactly what you have to do to stay on track to your success.
Have you experienced smoke and mirrors in business? Please share your thoughts in the comments.