Creating a Worthy Legacy… Not a “House of Lies” 

Word Cloud By Teresa Bozzelli

Legacies are fragile and constantly under surveillance, especially in the unforgiving and highly ambitious world of consulting. From the clients we choose, and who choose us for their hardest problems and the direction of their future, your legacy is shaped by years of experiences, continual learning, and a record of results, and a digital Rolodex of relationships. As the creators and custodians of our own legacy, let’s focus on the values that create not just a legacy, but one to be proud of that includes outstanding results, long term relationships and sustained stories of success.

I’m not sure there are bad values, but there are definitely bad behaviors based on less than ideal beliefs. With Marty in Showtime’s ribald parody of the consulting world, “House of Lies,” you see the self-interest, greed, insincerity, corruption, and sometimes—proactive treachery. The foundation of our legacy is based on our personal value system or core values used to make our daily decisions for both life and career.

These values are often beliefs we hold in our personal life, but values are also the foundation of behavior in the business/consulting world. It is how you apply your skills and how you behave with colleague and clients that create results you can be proud of year after year. We cannot think skill alone is sufficient.

Let’s examine the significance of our core values. Core values are both a personal value system applying to the behavior of one individual and a cultural value system adopted by groups of people with common goals and governing constructs. Core values are not just good ideas of the moment. They are not highly situational and are not inconsistently applied, when and if you choose. They must be externally observed, consistently portrayed, and require no interpretation.

Core Values Characteristics

  • Regulates personal relationships
  • Dominates business processes
  • Exemplifies who we are
  • Amplifies what we stand for
  • Translates why we do business the way we do
  • Instructs us in making decisions
  • Grounds the whole organization
  • Requires no external justification
  • Provide essential tenets of behavior

Core values create a common language of trust for building relationships and partnerships in the business world. Adopting values based behavior creates an unwavering and unchanging guide to creating a legacy that we can tell our grandchildren and the next generation of our consulting leaders about in years to come.

Creating a worthy and enduring legacy demands hard work and an unwavering value based ethos. As consultants with grand aspirations, we search for the secret code that delivers the results you are proud of and the relationships that sustain you. For me that is my moral compass of values: Integrity, Honesty, Courage, and Commitment. These values are not just values based behaviors—they directional in life’s journey and in engagements with clients.

• Integrity to Lead
Integrity is always doing what is right, not what is easy, not necessarily what others want. Integrity in leadership is visible and constant. Integrity in consulting in not always easy, but it is essential. A single lapse of integrity is lethal to trust with clients and colleagues and has been the downfall of numerous projects, friendships, and professional relationships. Integrity is the “North Star” for all value based behavior. With integrity as our guiding value, we can navigate through the most difficult situations. It is the essential component of long term relationships based on trust, candor, and loyalty that produces the most amazing client results.

• Honesty to communicate
Honesty in communication is exposing all the information and exploring all the perspectives that influence decisions. Honesty is more than truth. Honesty is withholding nothing, having no hidden agendas, and asking all the really hard questions. Honesty is an active, not passive behavior. It requires not only being receptive to hear unwelcome facts but proactive in searching for all relevant information. Honesty is both soliciting and sharing all the elements of truth and parallel perspectives without bias. It is also contagious—being honest engenders reciprocal honesty.

• Courage to Guide
Courage is the determination to take risks and create change. Courage creates action out of fear and positive results out of indecision. Courage is guiding a team or client to do the impossible. It is having the guts to articulate a vision of the possible and the necessary, even if not a pretty picture. Courage is easy during times of conformity and clarity, but arduous during times of emotional conflict and confusion. Courage does not follow the easy path. Courageous leaders are tenacious and passionate regardless of the uncertainty of the moment, but always focused on the end result.

• Commitment to Success
Commitment is the perseverance to achieve the desired outcome. It is the diligence to not just “get it done”, but to ensure that success is sustained over time. It is the unwavering dedication to solve our clients’ hardest problems and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them during the implementation and subsequent analysis and judgment of each and every decision. Commitment is the obligation we hold for the long term journey in creating success. It is not a point in time, but a bond that extends beyond the engagement. Commitment in creating success is the under-pinning of repeatable opportunities and client allegiance.

These values, Integrity, Honesty, Courage, and Commitment, alone are not just values based behaviors—they’re directional in life’s journey and in engagements with clients. However, these values are even more powerful when intensified with a few adjectives. Let me offer four specific value accelerators, Transparent—Open—Creative—Steadfast.

  1. Transparent literally means “see-through.” The business parallel is ensuring that nothing is held back, all information passes through to those involved. Hidden agendas are not tolerated.
  2. Open has multi-dimensional relevance to value based behaviors. Open communication is fact based; it is a frank unambiguous exchange of information and opinions.
  3. Creative is both a process and a description, and both are highly valuable in the consulting world. As consultants we must tell the story of necessary change and paint a compelling vision of the improved possibilities. Creativity is required to get beyond the obvious and constrained realities.
  4. steadfast is an attribute we strive for in many aspects of life. Steadfast signifies loyalty, stability, and constancy during difficult times. Steadfast behavior in business relationships is the binding agent for recurring consulting opportunities.

The Moral Compass in Action
There are several observable behaviors and indicators of our values to put into practice:

  • Transparent integrity
  • Open integrity
  • Transparent courage
  • Creative courage
  • Open honesty
  • Steadfast Commitment
  • Creative Commitment
  • Steadfast honesty

Even after numerous years, clients, colleagues competitors and collaborators, our legacies are still being built. To stay the consulting course requires a Moral Compass to guide our lives, our conversations, and our behaviors. We cannot deviate from the values that form our daily lives, the values we hold and that hold us to a high standard. The path to an enduring and laudable legacy is straight and narrow.

Our Moral Compass points North to lead and live with Integrity. We are bound on the left and right by courage and honesty. And ultimately, we both give and receive commitment for the duration of our careers and our lives.

As head of Sapient Government Services, public sector veteran Teresa Bozzelli is positioning Sapient as a strategic partner to U.S. government clients.