What’s your Moral Compass?

I once knew a successful CEO who, earlier on in his career had an interesting altercation that I’ve always remembered and serves as validation of a much more interesting (and fundamental) truth.

20 or so years prior, the lady who had been cleaning the office had been doing a sub-standard job so the CEO in question (we’ll call him Stewart) called the owner of the cleaning company and asked him to come over. The owner came that evening and after hearing Stewart’s concerns, called the cleaner into the meeting and absolutely slammed her. By all accounts it was pretty horrific and was workplace bullying at its worst.

Stewart sat back and watched this unfold. And then fired the cleaning company on the spot … treating him with the same contempt he had just witnessed directed at the lady in question. He didn’t pay the outstanding bill and was more than happy to tell anyone that listened that he would never do business with the company again.

Stewart had a moral compass, an underlying set of rules that he stuck to no matter what. As a great leader, he knew that relationships with his staff (whether directly employed or not) were key to his success. But more than that, it was just plain wrong … there is almost never a need to demean and embarrass people, regardless of the situation you might find yourself in.

Once he had the owner of the company out of his office, he then offered the cleaner a job working for him directly and increased her pay. I knew Stewart for 10 years or so and I can attest that this was purely how he worked and not planned for any materialistic gain … he hated injustice and used his resources and influence to fix it where he could.

What he gained for that action has repaid his faith in her multiple times over. In all the time I worked with him, I never saw her miss a day or not perform her job to the very maximum of her capabilities … to the extent where she almost missed a family wedding until she could find cover for herself! Authentic and sincere kindness goes a long way and builds reciprocity that cannot be bought.

When faced with a dilemma, an easy way to find your path is to simply ask yourself “what do I know to be right?” Too often we are swayed towards words like “easy” and “profitable” … both are great in the short term, but if you want long term success and fulfilment, “right” will steer you well every time.

“If you look at people without a moral compass, whether in business or government, they’re always losers in the end.”


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