I once was attending a career day at a Cleveland elementary school, and a little girl asked me what a journalist does. ``We tell stories,'' I answered.
``True ones or made up?'' she said.
``We're supposed to tell the truth, no matter what. Not a bad way to make a living.''
It sounded kind of pompous. But I meant it.
What brings that to mind is a speech I heard last week at the Rubber Manufacturers Association General Products Group meeting in La Quinta, Calif.
There were several lectures during the meeting, a pretty good mix. I was surprised how well a talk by Mary Lo Verde of the University of Colorado went over with the big, tough rubber company executives. Basically, she told the audience to take time to ``smell the roses,'' and several of the participants mentioned to me how meaningful that was to them.
Not to me. I must smell them too much already.
The speech that struck home with me even more was by management consultant Arte Maren. He talked about what I'd call ``management by truth.''
Maren's speech covered a variety of points. For example, he preached zero tolerance for second-rate employees-the ``weak link'' theory.
He's big on raising your standards constantly and never, never lowering them. He referred to that as the ``dimmer switch,'' slowly turning down your standards until the light is out.
He also stressed the importance of continuing to serve your customer after the sale is made. And he commented on how managers tend to analyze problems to correct them, and don't spend enough time studying successes to find out how they occurred and can be duplicated.
But the portion of Maren's lecture that really got to me was his comments about seeking the truth.
As the consultant sees it, facts get in the way of dealing with the truth. ``I'm late because traffic was bad,'' the employee says. That's merely a fact-the reason he's late is he didn't leave early enough. ``Sales are down because the customer wouldn't buy the product.'' The fact is the order wasn't placed: The reason is the customer wasn't convinced of the value of the product.
Maren said if you don't get at the reason-the real truth-for a problem, you don't solve it, and the problem will return.
Truth-seeking. Journalists certainly don't have it all to themselves.