Originally published on September 13, 2016 on LinkedIn.
Like people, corporations and institutions have countless opportunities to do the right thing, and inevitably deal with mistakes and shortcomings along the way. It's how we genuinely address and respond to damaging mistakes that reveal true character, integrity and honesty; or the lack thereof.
I grew up in the era of "Do The Right Thing" slogans, when it was important for me as a young man to have a different sounding board, including alternative lenses to help me deal with all the real and perceived injustice, prejudice and wrongdoings I experienced around me. Then I ended up working for a very fine institution, where one particular core value (straight from my company's old Vision & Values) spoke to me more than anything else: "we value what's right for our customers in everything we do." As a professional and a leader, this quote has always been my guiding principle; like a Hippocratic Oath that sounds almost too idealistic, yet very deterministic. And this core value has also been that "little small voice," yet powerful driving force that helps me sleep well at night after a long day of work. So when the news of damaging mistakes and ensuing consequences surfaced, it was impossible not to feel great sadness and anger followed by questions of how could this be and much more? And yet, it is also impossible not to express that, collectively we've done wrong along the way and let down our customers.
So now, we have an incredible opportunity to be courageous in doing the right thing! And this courageous moment is one we're not shying away from, but rather embracing to own and correct mistakes in order to rebuild and re-earn trust. In a big family, pointing fingers at a sibling or a family member who's done wrong and/or tarnished the family name does nothing to solve the problem. Fortunately, I've witnessed candor and deep regret followed by the same consistent question: how do we make this right by our customers first? Not how do we control the damage to preserve our name, brand or stock price.
In a popular culture that loves to generalize and condemn (and drawing from personal experiences), it’s important to have sober moments, away from self-righteous fist pumps and the temptations of being jury, judge and executioner. A vast majority of people, including me, are quick to blame (and perhaps rightly so) the big bad corporations, the TBTF banks, the Government, the Unions, the Church, the Police and the list goes on… Nonetheless, it’s we the people that also make up these collectives with our own motivations, upbringings, values, interests etc. Thus, courage also dictates that we always have the choice to display integrity even when it is very costly and against self-interest.
This post being a personal opinion, I sincerely believe that, unlike what's the norm in corporate America, I'm witnessing a refreshing commitment in my company to face the stink, clean up, and restore faith. These steps will result in restoring and redefining a legacy of putting our customers and our communities first. This is what good leaders and companies do - put people first, not profits.
A few parting thoughts: As an individual, an employee, a leader in your own sphere, what actions do you consciously take to help your organization do the right thing? How do you contribute to making your unit, your organization and our world a better place for all? And most importantly how do you treat your customers, co-workers, and business partners?
I thank my company for choosing to do the right thing in this moment. #DoingTheRightThing!
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed are solely my own, and do not reflect any official position of my employer referenced herein.