In every election cycle there is at least one embarrassing moment when a politician says something not realizing that the microphone is on. Their handlers usually respond later that their candidate “misspoke” and really didn’t mean what was said. That often makes me wonder why they would have said it if they didn’t mean it. I think the truth is that they didn’t mean for anyone to hear what they really believe.
The great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say in his presentations that it’s important to act as if the microphone is always on. This is even more important today when virtually everyone has smart phones that can record on video everything someone does or says. There is very little privacy today, and it’s important for a leader to remember that.
Sometimes a sports person will say something negative about an opposing team or a player on another team. The comments will usually be printed up and plastered on the dressing room of the other team. It serves as a great motivation to the team to prove those comments wrong. That’s why when a coach or player is officially interviewed by the media they always sing the praises of the other team and give vanilla answers. They know negative comments will only inspire their opponent to play even harder.
Negative comments not only hurt sports teams; they hurt all organizations. I was consulting with a church one time. The church had struggled for years. As I talked with the leadership I asked about the church’s reputation in the community. They reported it was very poor. When I asked why they said one reason is that a group of men from the church ate breakfast each morning in a restaurant in the community. These men had long been critical of the church. According to the church leaders, much of the conversation at breakfast was about their issues with the church. Others in the restaurant could overhear these conversations, and many of them formed negative opinions about the church. I’m sure if asked each of these critics would have insisted they wanted to see the church grow, and I doubt that they were intentionally trying to cause the community to have negative opinions of their church. But, they didn’t realize that the microphone is always on.
Businesses are also harmed when people speak badly about them. It’s bad enough when a customer has a bad experience with a business and tells others about the experience. It’s even worse when employees begin to talk badly about their employer. People assume the employee has insider information about the business, and if they are negative towards it there must be real problems with the company. Unhappy employees can do great harm to a business with their negativity. They need to be reminded that the microphone is always on.
I’ve always believed that if I’m employed by a business that I have a certain loyalty to that company. If I can’t speak positively about the business that is paying me a salary to work there, then I don’t need to work there. I may not agree with everything that is done in the company, but there are proper ways to address my concerns. Doing so in public is not one of the proper ways. Neither is speaking to people who can’t do anything to change the issue I do not like.
The microphone is always on. Those of us in leadership need to watch our words and our actions. If we project a positive attitude about the way our organizations are doing, those working with us will be more apt to be positive. If we project negativity then we can expect others to be negative as well.