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Have You Selected Your Guiding Lights?

As I reflected on several of my columns, I found myself wondering how a person selects their “guiding lights.”  You hear people talk about “rules” to live by. Apparently one or more of my columns spoke to a number of our readers; I have received more responses to the columns which challenge readers to consider how they can improve their personal or professional lives.  I hope this column speaks to you.  

I once heard a priest say that the biblical Jews had 613 rules or requirements to guide them.  I can hardly fathom keeping 613 admonishments on my mind at any one time.  Perhaps alternatively one can reduce the list of rules to ten (commandments), but even there many of us do not follow them.  The Lord himself spoke of two golden rules (1) “Love your God with all your might”, and (2) “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Some people feel that these rules apply to our personal lives, not our business lives.

This column is written by a hard nosed businessman with many years of business experience, not by a clergyman.  Having said that, don’t you find that some/many of those rules that we learned as children have direct application to our business lives?  Who wants to work with a dishonest boss or fellow employee?

And in our current society hypocrisy seems to be running rampant.  To counter this disturbing trend I recommend that we all find some guiding lights/principles to help us with our day to day business and personal decisions.  I would most earnestly recommend four traits: honesty, courage, respect and responsibility.  But have no doubt, close adherence to these four traits is not always viewed positively.  If you find that to be the case in your organization, you may need to leave to preserve your integrity.

Honesty is absolutely key in our lives.  Can you imagine working with or for a person whose word you cannot trust?  It means that you cannot trust what they say or write (in memos, emails or text messages).  How can you do business with such a person?  Clearly, this person does not respect the notion of honor. Their conduct reflects a distinct lack of integrity.  But executives, managers and supervisors have to ask themselves, do they support, indeed encourage, dishonest conduct?  Think about how people manipulate budgets because some higher up wants to show a bottom line profit.  So they succumb to the pressure.  Often times, people make it a point to reward those who bring them good news and punish/demean those who bring bad, albeit true, news to them.  How many public employees “sold” their integrity when they provided “tainted” water in Flint, Michigan?  What would prompt them to do that?  I really don’t know anyone who heads to work and says to themselves, well, I guess I will sell my soul again today.  But then again, my loving wife says I am very naïve.

Having grown up in a blue collar section of Chicago’s South Side, I instinctively thought  courage means physical courage.  Can you stand up to the bullies?  But as I have grown older, I realize that courage is a far broader concept than simply slugging it out with the bad guys.  It means having the backbone to tell your supervisor, “No”, when he or she asks you to do something unethical.  It means having the nerve to stand for something.  The old saying, “stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,” speaks a great truth.  Courage also means having the guts to speak your mind even if it’s an unpopular position.  I encourage any person in a position of responsibility to understand that dissent is not disloyalty, in fact, often it is just the opposite; it may be an act of genuine concern or courage.    

When was the last time you congratulated one of your employees for their courage in challenging one of your corporate tenets?   Never emasculate your employees; it is a self defeating concept.  

Respect speaks to showing simple dignity to the most humble as well as to the most exalted of us.  We sometimes forget that the janitor or the receptionist has family responsibilities as significant to them as those that concern the current occupant of the executive suite.  Do you treat your employees and co-workers with the respect due to them simply because they are fellow human beings?  We have all seen people who dismiss others once they realize that this individual is not “important”.  The boss who takes a few minutes to speak to one of his/her employees at the mall buys a lot of support, particularly if the employee has the kids with him.  It tells the kids that Dad or Mom is appreciated by their employer.  When the boss flips burgers at a departmental gathering or brings donuts to an early morning meeting it is genuinely appreciated.  

We hear a great deal about responsibility and accountability these days.  Simply acknowledging a mistake does not speak to responsibility; one has to recognize the need to correct the misdeed and see that it does not happen again.  Instead, our society seems to ignore the realities of responsibility.  The dreadful comment, “it ain’t my job” seems to permeate our society.  Jewel Food Stores employed a concept for many years called The Second Assistant.  Its premise was that the boss should be the assistant to the subordinate.  If the boss complained that his/her employee was not performing up to snuff, the next level of management would insist that the “boss” face up to his responsibility of developing the subordinate.  It was understood that the subordinate’s improvement was the duty of his/her immediate superior.  The subordinate needs a coach, not a critic.  How do you conduct yourself?   Are you a coach or a critic?     CARPE DIEM

For Your Consideration:   One of the reasons mature people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.  John Gardner
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Goethe, poet, scientist
Personal note: If you have an opportunity to hire a military veteran, do so.  It would be a great way to celebrate the end of covid.  They and their families have made a huge contribution to the quality of our lives.  God bless!  
James F. Fitzgerald was the president of James F. Fitzgerald and Associates, Inc., a Naperville, IL-based senior executive career transition and executive coaching firm.  Phone #630-420-0362  email: jamesffitz37@ hotmail.com

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