Yesterday I witnessed something beautiful and worthy of putting out there.
Life takes many turns and we all go through some difficult stuff at times, and there are no exceptions. But occasionally the gods of providence allow us to overhear something that restores our faith in each other, and we can look at the world with less jaundiced eyes.
This is no great, world-changing blog post, and the conversation that inspired it is not particularly world-changing either. But I am a firm believer in the little things, like conversations over coffee, so if you like little things that can make a difference, this one is for you.
So I was sitting having coffee with a friend, who stepped out to take a call. As a result of that, with my phone off, I was looking around, watching and listening to the random events happening around me. I overheard this (summarised and anonymised, of course)
I heard two business people talking about a difficult situation. One, a client seeking advice, and the other, what turned out to be a prospective service provider.
The client says “I’m having some difficulties with my existing service provider in the area of ___, they cannot deliver what I am asking for with the flexibility I need. Can you help?
The prospective service provider says “I can help, but please tell me more about the situation”
The client then details to the prospective provider what has happened, and the provider listens and then says “Listen, I could easily help you. But I feel like that would be professionally inappropriate. I am not in the business of taking bread from the table from a colleague in the same industry as I am. We are all people of integrity here and we all deserve professional courtesy. What goes around comes around. Can I discuss with you what I think could be a better way?
You need to talk to X if you haven’t already, and make sure X knows how you feel and what could happen. You need to show X the gap between expectations and reality. You need to be open and transparent with X. What I would rather do is come in for a short time and provide support and mentoring to help X. Then I will move on, and we will all be better off. You will have the service you need, I will have some income, and X has a chance to continue the relationship with you at the level you expect. If it doesn’t work out, we can obviously talk again.
The client said “Thank you, that would be a fantastic outcome. I was really at a loss how to handle this without being a bastard but I feel that this way will be the best outcome for everyone”.
A handshake later, someone’s relationship with their manager, and therefore their career was safe, and probably back on track. Because of one person, and their mindset of integrity and grace.
The reason this conversation blew me away was because I recently had the misfortune to witness the actions of a person who exemplified the exact opposite of what I saw. The example of that sad individual has stuck with me, and seeing the opposite, completely positive example, I could not help but be inspired.
In this scenario we saw a person act not out of greed, or personal power, or to fulfil their need for affirmation and recognition. We see kindness, empathy, integrity and a strong sense of self-worth. We do not see backstabbing, self-interest, narcissism, manipulation, or any of those other things people do to each other to get ahead.
Now that manager was thankfully advised wisely and shown “a better way”. He reached out for good advice, and he got it. Good solid, wise advice. He is better for it. THAT is where us HR people hold great power. We are influencers, guides, motivators and directors of energy and values. In this conversation, we saw a consultant (not HR, by the way) lead his client to a higher path, even at personal cost to himself. He deferred personal gain to make a real difference in an organisation, and in some individuals life, when he clearly held the power, in that moment, to create an opportunity for himself, but on the flip side, hell for X and their family.
That manager has built the values of his organisation up. He has associated with a positive role model, and he has taken his advice and will now influence corporate behaviour towards creating a higher values base. Equally, in reverse, if the consultant had acted selfishly, the organisation taking his advice would have been led away from its values base.
We can read about a companies values anytime we like, we just have to Google “Volkswagen” to see an astonishingly good corporate values statement, for example. what we cannot Google as easily, except when it surfaces in the headlines, is what companies BEHAVE like internally. Lets face it, we all know that values statements do not create values. Intentions do not create values. BEHAVIOUR creates values, and values are REVEALED by behaviour. Accurately, all the time. Google Volkswagen again, but add in the words “emissions fraud” and see what pops up.
Someone once wrote “Show me your checkbook and your diary, and I will tell you what your priorities are”. Ouch. But those two things do not lie, and they DO reveal exactly what is important to each of us. In the corporate sense, it is very right to say “Show me the behaviour you permit and reward, and I will tell you your true corporate values”
I look around me, I read the headlines, and I see a world poisoned by narcissism and hate, by people seeking opportunities out of a sense of poverty, of fear, to gather resources towards themselves at the expense of others. And then, yesterday, I looked around me and I saw professionalism, integrity, kindness, generosity, wisdom, grace and humility.
It was a good day. And it made up – more than made up – for the time when I saw the opposite.