My father, who was a tax attorney, once told me that his greatest professional fear was a client (or their family) not being honest with him. He could not help them with their problem if they were not completely honest.

Reflecting upon this for many years, I’ve zeroed in on my own greatest professional fear as a marketing consultant. It is quite similar to my father’s but with one twist.

My greatest fear: clients not being honest with “themselves”.

If they are not being honest with themselves, they cannot be honest with me. I cannot help them if they are blinding themselves to reality or telling themselves what they wish to believe while ignoring what is actually going on around them.

But why would company management or a business owner not be honest with themselves?

Case in point: a student in my graduate marketing class told a story about a company she had recently left that had won one of those “best places to work” awards from a local news source. She said this achievement came as a direct result of the company management “strongly encouraging” all employees to submit votes, or surveys, rating the company rather highly.

According to her, she and her coworkers begrudgingly complied and helped the company earn the status as one of the best places to work. The reality: she and her coworkers were actually highly disgruntled and many left shortly thereafter for other jobs.

What you have here is a company that continues to promote itself as a great place to work when in reality the employees really don’t like working there. What you have here is a brand that is blind to its shortcomings. In other words, they are talking the talk, but cannot walk the walk when their “legs” keep walking out the door.

This is a textbook example of a client bringing my greatest fear to life.

I also recently caught a guest on CNBC speaking out CEO-itis, a condition that affects leaders in all levels of management and business ownership. This guest happened to mention it while discussing what happened recently with Nissan’s CEO who was accused of professional misconduct on numerous fronts.

What leads to the condition known as CEO-itis is that no one around a CEO tells her or him that they are doing a bad job, or might be making a mistake strategically or otherwise. What that leads to is an indomitable feeling in the CEO, or business owner, that he or she can do no wrong. Thus, they make mental mistakes that cost business and negatively affect the lives of their employees.

And it all starts with people not being honest with themselves.

Read about the importance of being true to who you are as a company and why it matters in “Yes, but MY company is different.”