I live and breathe words as an author, publisher, speaker, and publisher. Words are the foundation for all communication, discovery, and expression. Words hold tremendous value in our society. A person whose word is good as gold means what they say can be trusted in all circumstances. A book filled with the proper assemblage of words can change the trajectory of your life with a single sentence. As John writes, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Words are the most powerful thing of all.
But somebody must test the words from even the most reputable sources. Several years ago, I got involved in a business venture after vetting the requestor’s credibility with someone I highly regarded in the field of endeavor. It turns out they were wrong, so wrong it took precious and extensive resources from me to disengage. All because I took one person's word of approval.
In another situation, I connected someone to a group where I volunteered. Later, I discovered some behaviors that could present an incongruence with the group's mission and shared them with my friend. They shared that they had also experienced reservation based on comments made but thought their impression must be wrong based on my word of connection.
So much of what we do, and who we do it with, stems from recommendations and referrals. Word-of-mouth testimonials are the most potent influences in the history of civilization. We have a whole new generation in the workforce titled "influencers." We trust that their words equal validation and success.
But we still need to complete our due diligence. We can trust, but we must verify. One data point does not make a decision. I should never have made that partnership decision based on one input. And when I made that connection, I should have provided the caveat that I only knew this person in a limited capacity.
So here are a few items to remember before you give someone your word of advisement, input, or recommendation:
- First, an impression emerges from a snapshot in time.
I am in Saint Louis this week, interacting with some people I haven’t worked with in 23 and 14 years, respectively. Those who knew me "when" have an idea of who I was "then." However, who I am, professionally and personally, is different than who I was. So make sure the word you get from others is timely.
- Second, any evaluation occurs from a particular context.
I get asked for referrals for future employment. Unless I have worked with the individual in the capacity that they are trying to gain employment, I make it clear to them and the recruiter that I can only vouch for this particular work context and nothing more. Ensure the word you get pertains to the individual's capability in a specific capacity.
- Third, get multiple inputs from numerous individuals.
We had to go through background clearances when I worked in the military and government. The higher the clearances were, the deeper they'd go into our backgrounds. They wanted the whole picture of us, not just from a season in our lives. So make sure you cast the net wide when getting a recommendation. Make certain the word you get is from varied sources.
In summary, you can’t go wrong if you ensure any word you give is rightly divided, accurate, precise, and related to the job. And if you are looking for input, get as many as possible to get a complete picture.