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5 Truths and A Lie

In a time when countries are defaulting on their loans, corporations are posting record profits and reducing their charitable donations, and finance exec (Greg Smith – Goldman Sachs) submits a resignation letter stating ‘toxic and destructive’ work environment as the cause – it’s time for leaders at all levels to up the morality ante and focus on the greater good.

I picked up Gary Hamel’s book What Matters Now the other day and found a passage that provides a simple road map to ensure you are “acting in the best interest of all” at work. It reminds me of an exercise I take leaders through identifying the key stakeholders in their value chain and then gauging alignment and an equitable “value” exchange. Without both; the relationship is not sustainable and takes up valuable resources.

The following are the words of wisdom Mr. Hamel shares with his second-year MBA students in preparation for their first post MBA job. He suggests assuming the following truths:

  1. Your widowed mother has invested her life’s saving in your company. She’s your only shareholder and that investment is her only asset. Obviously, you’ll do everything you can to make sure she has a secure and long retirement. That’s why the idea of sacrificing long-term for a quick payout will never occur to you.

  2. Your boss is an older sibling. You’ll always be respectful, but you won’t hesitate to offer frank advice when you think it’s warranted – and you’ll never suck up.

  3. Your employees are your childhood chums. You’ll always give them the benefit of the doubt and will do whatever you can to smooth their path. When needed, though, you’ll remind them that friendship is a reciprocal responsibility. You’ll never treat them as human “resources”.

  4. Your children are the company’s primary customers. You want to please and delight them. That means you’ll go to the mat with anyone who suggests you should deceive or take advantage of them. You’ll never exploit a customer.

  5. You’re independently wealthy. You work because you want to, not because you have to – so you will never sacrifice your integrity for a promotion or a glowing performance review. You’ll quit before you compromise.

And as for the lie – commit to not falling prey to the biggest deception – lying to yourself. Business and life are filled with challenges and difficult decisions. When in doubt pull out your morale compass (aka your core values) or read the text above and ask yourself “am I truly acting in the best interest of all”? If so, move forward, if not recalibrate and course correct to play your best game and be a winner in the game of life.

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